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Hospital investigating pair of deaths

by Lannie Walker

Guam - Oncologist Dr. Sam Friedman's apology to the community follows KUAM's confirmation just today that the Guam Memorial Hospital is conducting a pair of separate death investigations.

As a new administration at GMH works to improve patient care, complaints of negligence at the island's only public hospital continue ranging from serious to possibly even deadly. Construction worker Roland Javier went to Guam Memorial after he cut his thumb with a utility knife at work. He recalled, "The doctor was standing about two feet away from me and responded saying, 'Don't worry, you won't die, your cut is too far from your heart.' He told the assistant just to clean it with iodine and put the derma-glue to seal the cut."

Javier went back to work but when he continued to feel sharp pain in his thumb he finally went to see a specialist. "When he examined my hand he told me that I cut the tendon and the nerve that why my thumb was still getting numb and swollen," he said.

Javier had surgery to reconnect the tendon, but was told he could have lost his thumb if he had not sought a second opinion. He questioned, "My question is why didn't GMH look at my thumb closely and find the problem the first time? Why did I have to go to another doctor?"

Melissa Wusstig, 31, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis four years ago after receiving an MRI at GMH. "It hurts," she said. "My brain is hurting and when they did the MRI and I saw the film all I saw was big white spots in my brain." Wusstig then under went spinal tap procedures at the hospital, saying, "They did it twice by a neurologist and I do not know his name and they were supposed to give me an update or mail me, but they never did. So I'm standing here, or should I say sitting here, feeling kind of dumb. It's like what happened? I don't exist."

She says she called the hospital repeatedly to find out the results of the tests, adding, "And still no response no nothing, so in other words I'm just left in the dark."

Wusstig says she will never go back to GMH and hopes to go off-island to get medical care. And just last week a visit to GMH turned fatal for a female patient.

Larry Lizama, associate administrator of medical services at GMH, couldn't tell KUAM News when or how the woman died, but he did say a doctor associated with her care resigned shortly after her death. "A woman died during that period from the surgery and the anesthesiologist participating in the case nullified his employment based on some other issues that are part of his reasons for terminating his relationship," he explained.

When asked if there is any reason to believe any of the anesthesiologist's actions had any thing to do with her death," he replied, "I cannot comment on that because the review process has just started."

Dr. Lizama confirms that isn't the only death investigation the hospital is conducting. Another patient died just hours after being seen at the GMH emergency room. Lizama says specific cases such as those who died at the hospital during or after surgery and those who pass away within 24 hours of being seen or treated at GMH trigger a two-pronged investigation: one is conducted by the medical staff and the other by the hospital.

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