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GMH board discussing finances

by Krystal Paco

Guam - While lawmakers finalize next fiscal year's budget, they've also been invited to attend a Guam Memorial Hospital board meeting tonight to address a need to revive the hospital's current state of flatlined finances.

"This is no surprise. Nobody should be surprised of the situation that the hospital is going through," said Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. But what's the situation? A $10 million dollar shortfall as the fiscal year draws to a close.

Although he's proposed his share of remedies for the long-time underfunded hospital, including bill 20, committee chair on healthcare senator Rodriguez says island leaders must work together to get the hospital urgent financial relief to survive the final weeks of Fiscal Year 2013. "Back early in January of this year I introduced a measure that would help the hospital substantially however there was some derailments of that. Eventually we were able to give the hospital some help in July, so that the benefits of that are not going to be seen immediately."

As we've been reporting, GMH continues to fall short on making vendor payments, specifically to Perry Point, a large distributor of medical supplies.

In July, GMH chief financial officer Alan Ulrich learned the U.S. Department of Treasury was garnishing the hospital's Medicare payments on behalf of Perry Point at over a million dollars a month. "We've said all along that if we don't take care of their vendor debts the most important which is Perry Point which is backed by the federal government they're going to garnish Medicare money that comes to the hospital, and now we've seen it so it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody," he said.

This is in addition to Medicare and MIP exhausting most of their appropriated expenditures - a combination with adverse affects on GMH's ability to pay other vendors and make payroll. But unlike previous cries for help, if funds don't come stat, 30 hospital beds could also be on the chopping block.

"There's no option to let our hospital shut 30 beds as they're proposing or have any payless paydays so it can't be an option," he explained. "Vendors will continue not being paid. Doctors won't be paid. Nurses won't be paid. And we can't make that happen. This is our only hospital. Our people depend on this. And we have to make sure it works out and we get the resources to them between now and the end of the fiscal year."

Meanwhile, GMH officials are concerned lawmakers will not appropriate adequate funding to meet next fiscal year's needs. As we previously reported, GMH presented their $144 million budget request, what they contend is a "balanced" budget as they continue to pursue higher reimbursement rates.

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