Gaps found in GMH credentialing process
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - A review is underway to ensure that physicians who were given privileges to work at the island's only civilian hospital actually met all of the requirements. "The majority of doctors here at the hospital provide excellent care," maintained Dr. Larry Lizama, medical director for the Guam Memorial Hospital.
But it was during an investigation into the death of a woman following surgery at GMH that Dr. Lizama noticed some problems. "I had some concerns about the credentialing of certain individuals that are privileged to practice at GMH. Now, in respecting the autonomy of the medical staff, which falls under the governing body of the board, I'm not in a position to deny privileges to physicians at the hospital," he explained.
Lizama says he began investigating concerns raised by physician and non-physician staff regarding the care provided to the woman who died. Lizama says he placed an anesthesiologist on administrative leave, noting, "While there may not have been clear documentation when somebody raises a concern, I need to investigate it just like in the police department. People are put on administrative leave until the investigative process is complete."
But when the evaluation was completed, Lizama says the anesthesiologist resigned, citing other issues that were not disclosed about his reason for terminating his contract with GMH. Another anesthesiologist, Dr. Russel Aubin, whose license had been revoked in two states after allegations surfaced that he fondled two patients who were sedated remains employed at the hospital. Aubin was acquitted in 2006 but his licenses were still taken away.
Dr. Lizama confirms Aubin continues to be chaperoned when he is with female patients, saying, "We are again looking at credentialing and privileging of our medical staff. For what we can do with patients, we need to protect the patients, make sure they're well informed and our ability to perform that service is appropriate."
Lizama says that's why he asked that the hospital board of trustees be empanelled, as they are responsible for giving, limiting and terminating privileges at GMH. "We've also identified some issues that I think clearly needs improvement, part of the peer review process, evaluating incidents is to look at some of the deficiencies that may have occurred not by intent, but unfortunately again through processes and we've identified that," he said.
And as the new management team uncovers more and more concerns, they want the board to be in place to provide guidance on how they should proceed and how they can improve the care that patients receive. "We have good physicans here that do good patient care," Liazam said. "We've had isolated events, but I don't think that's unique to GMH.
The hospital is conducting two investigations into recent deaths there. It's a two-pronged approach, as evaluations are conducted by the hospital and the medical staff. Meanwhile KUAM News has been told that the newly empanelled hospital board of trustees is working to schedule a meeting, subject to the Open Government Law.