Plan laid out to get GMH on road to recovery - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Plan laid out to get GMH on road to recovery

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Having been on the job for less than a month, the hospital's new management team appeared before lawmakers this afternoon for an informational briefing discussing the chronic problems they've identified and their proposed solutions to getting the Guam Memorial Hospital back on the road to financial recovery.

"How much money have we wasted over the years using the same services?" was probed to GMH new leadership team. And according to chief financial officer Siva Karrupan, the answer is alarming, noting, "We have a transcription service that we hire from the mainland at $22,000 a month.  We could have the same transcription service coming out of the Philippines for $8,000 a month."

He added, "We have ultrasound technicians that we pay $10,000 a month for. Now, on any given day I could go find an ultrasound technician and pay him $65,000 a year and he'd be very happy...two dieticians would cost us $63,000 a month from an outside service. Why would I want to pay $92 an hour for a dietician, when I can pay someone $40 and be happy with it?"

Karuppan says the hospital also lost out on an opportunity to collect $1.2 million in Medicare bad debt for last year alone and millions more for prior years. Part of the plans for cost containment at GMH include closing the hemodialysis center that's costing three quarters of a million dollars every year, but doesn't bring in a dime.

Karuppan continued, "We have concluded that we should be taking a look at perhaps a closure of the unit and asking the on-island private facilities to absorb these facilities...I have been in negotiations with them to insure we could have an orderly transfer of patients from our facility to their state of the art facilities."

Closing the unit would free up nurses currently assigned there to work in other parts of the hospital such as medical surgical units, which in turn would save even more money by alleviating the need to utilize outside traveling nurses which is costing the hospital 4.5 million dollars in the last year alone. "Today, thanks to Mr. [hospital administrator Rey] Vega and Dr. [Larry] Lizama, we have seven traveling nurses because we have tried to cut down and manage with what we have," the physician added.

Senator Ben Pangelinan questioned, "The reductions just occurred since you guys got in?", with Karuppan replying that such began in February. "Oh," said the senator, "so it started before you guys came in? How much have you reduced?" Karuppan said, "From 33 to 7."

When asked if such was done in three weeks, Karuppan said it was "maybe two months...a slow reduction of nurses, also adding, "I'm not surely sure about the timeline," when the senator followed-up with a question if this occurred before the GMH previous board of trustees was dismissed by Governor Eddie Calvo.

The new management is also reviewing other departments to determine what needs reorganization so that a game plan can be identified to come up with savings. "Some of these issues are physician-based, some of them are just departmental-based; so therefore, we need to balance that out and ensure we give premium care to the patients regardless of whether we are losing money or making money," said Karuppan.

"We want to have departments that make money for the hospital which the hospital really has not ever looked at to see what departments can really make money on an outpatient basis."

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