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GMH board meets, receives staff reports

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The newly empanelled Guam Memorial Hospital board of trustees met last night, at the request of Governor Eddie Calvo. While there was plenty of discussion on plans to improve the finances and quality of care at GMH, the board didn't take any action on electing officers or making decisions until they're first confirmed by lawmakers.

"I'd like to assure you that Guam Memorial Hospital is safe," said Rey Vega. "The Guam Memorial Hospital is Joint Commission [accredited], and as such we will provide the nationally recognized standard of care." With that statement, the interim hospital administrator gave his report to the newly empanelled GMH board of trustees Thursday night discussing cost containment efforts that the new management team has identified.

Among them, a decision to significantly reduce and in some instances, all together cut on call pay for non-physician staff. Last year alone, the hospital paid out a million dollars for 138,000 hours of on-call time for various employees. "We have come up with an immediate resolution. We've asked some departments to completely eliminate on call. We just want to make sure that delivery of care and services is not compromised and we should see some significant reduction in on-call pay," Vega continued.

Associate administrator for medical services Dr. Larry Lizama also discussed physician contracts such as neurosurgeon services that have resulted in the hospital paying out $580,000 each year, but not necessarily for services the neurosurgeons actually perform on patients.

One neurosurgeon that is contracted to work at GMH for only 20 days out of the month is paid $400,000 a year and only performed a single surgery last year. "That needs re-evaluation certainly among us whether how to best deal with the high cost of providing the service and the current level of care and standard that we have set," he said.

Management is also looking at improving services while capturing revenues. Closure of the outpatient component of the Hemo-Dialysis Unit was also brought before the board for consideration, but members simply took the proposal under advisement.

Meanwhile, it appears that the hospital's finances are on the road to recovery. GMH has improved collections by a million dollars as compared to the month of February. "That is primarily due to us hounding insurance companies to pay on the receivables," said Siva Karuppan, GMH's chief financial officer, "and so far they've been very accommodating and they've come up with some cash for the month of March. And we hope the same scenario will be repeated for April."

Couple that with net losses going from more than $2 million in the month of January, $500,000 in February and $376,000 last month and management is cautiously optimistic that things will only get better.

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