Guam VA supports new vets hospital - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam VA supports new vets hospital

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - While it's still in the planning stages, the Guam Veterans Affairs Office is welcoming the idea of a new private veterans hospital that will not only help those on island but in the region as well.

It was last week Friday when International Group president Peter Sgro spoke before the Guam Veterans Commission on plans for a new private veterans hospital on island. Guam Veterans Affairs Office administrator John Unpingco told KUAM News, "I thought it would only be a matter of time before somebody surfaced, but I didn't know Guam would surface that quickly, but it's a very timely concept."

Unpingco says the idea is very timely especially when the US VA is "under siege" in light of recent events in Arizona. He says it was a few months ago when dozens of VA hospital patients in phoenix had died possibly due to delays in medical care. "This hospital, the reason why I support it is that it would plan to do, or at least I hope it plans to do, is to cover our region, so it's not only Guam, but it's the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau and CNMI and other islands swept together it would work if it was a regional concept it can be made to work," he said.

Currently, the island's veterans get their care from the Guam Community Outpatient Based Clinic also known as C-BOC. They also get referrals to specialists at naval hospital or at private clinics on island. If all three fail, veterans are sent to the Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. "It goes to the very concept of you keep them where their homes are at and somehow the recovery period seems to be a lot faster, so I applaud the idea, it has merit," he said.

And while he considers it only a small stumbling block, Unpingco says some on the Guam Veterans Commission raised concern over who would pay for this hospital. "The funding is something that they would have to work on because an investor invests to get a return on his money and it was not quite clear where the return on investment was going to come from," he said.

Sgro on Friday says the project already has an unnamed interested on-island investor who is committing up to $100 million. And while the initial design will start with 23 beds, Unpingco questions if that is enough given the ailing veteran population on Guam. At this time, Unpingco says there are at least 27,000 veterans who have made contact with the Guam VA Office but it's most likely there are more out there. In the meantime, an advisory committee is being put together this week for the project - something Unpingco says he wants to be a part of. 
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