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GMH management wants to move forward

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - The Guam Memorial Hospital has experienced its amount of shortcomings for quite some time, from financial challenges to staffing requirements. And as a new private hospital lingers overhead, Guam's only public hospital may be in danger of losing millions.

"We don't want to be a second-class hospital," defended Rey Vega, GMH's interim administrator. Such was the overall feeling from the agency's administration during Tuesday night's oversight hearing. GMH's administrative team presented lawmakers an update on the status of the island's only public hospital, specifically cost-cutting initiatives, capital improvements projects, and moving forward on improving the hospital in light of a new hospital ahead.

Vega says although the hospital has much to look forward to, notably Governor Eddie Calvo's plans to expand the Emergency Department and Critical and Intensive Care Units. Additionally, the Guam Regional Medical City does pose a possible threat in taking away not only revenue, but staff as well. Vega said, "We calculated if those good payers go to the new hospital - we expect to lose $35 million a year. That is an estimate from the revenues generated from the good payer or the commercial."

"Loss of experienced employees is possibility the only thing that would counter to that is if we maintain the rich benefits," he added, "because I'm sure the private hospital will not be able to match the rich benefits."

And although the new hospital would leave GMH with about 50 percent of the population served, including those who self-pay and those under MIP, Medicaid and Medicare, those rich benefits Vega speaks of range from leave sharing, parental support, paternity/maternity leave, weekend pay and certification pay all of which have brought on several challenges for the hospital. "Leave sharing we have noticed has a recently to been abused. We have seen a lot of requests for leave-sharing, for the Family Medical Leave Act, and it's impacting in our especially the clinical side of the house. It's impacting in our ability to provide the patient care if they are on leave for a definite period of time," he explained.

GMH also estimates the non-productive hours in the past year such as jury duty, military leave, annual leave, sick leave and lump sum payments have cost the hospital about $6.8 million. Vega pleaded for the Guam Legislature's help, saying, "With the guidance from the board, we're looking at most of these as monies that we could pay for the vendor for our critical supplies. We beg the Legislature to look at some of these legislative benefits. I know it's not a going to be popular issue especially with my staff, but if we were to succeed, we might as well succeed together."

With new competition and higher expectations raised by the community, GMH's Dr. Larry Lizama hopes more can done to once again become the community provider of care on island, saying, "With that raising level of expectation is comes that challenge of finding the best and the brightest, and unfortunately at this time our recruitment efforts have been slow bound and our retention is being challenged."

Vega did add that they are waiting on a follow-up visit from both JACHO and CMS. but have since completed several of the citations noted last year. 

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