Newly empanelled GMH board meets
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - "I'd like to assure (the board) the Guam Memorial Hospital is safe and Joint Commission accredited," stated Interim Hospital Administrator Rey Vega. The statement was made at the start of Vega's staff report to the newly empaneled board of trustees as he asked members to respect the hard working employees of the hospital. Cost containment was also discussed as the hospital looks to reduce the hemorrhaging at GMH including on-call pay that cost the hospital $1 million last year alone for 138,000 hours of on-call time for various employees.
The new management team announced that it intends to eliminate on call completely in some departments as long as service and care are not compromised. The team is also looking at potential revenue generation such as leasing out portions of the cafeteria to create a food court-type area. Additionally they are looking to outsource the dietary needs of the Skilled Nursing Facility because of staffing shortages.
Chief Financial Officer Siva Karuppan says the hospital has $22 million in accounts payable - $10 million owed to vendors, $7 million to the Government of Guam Retirement Fund and $4.2 million owed to the Department of Revenue & Taxation. Karuppan also discussed management's proposal to close the Hemodialysis Unit. He explained that it costs $2.9 million each year to run the facility, but that only $1.8 million is collected resulting in the hospital losing out on a million a year.
The hospital has worked with private clinics to absorb the patients receiving dialysis services. The nurses working in the unit would go to other areas in the hospital.
Interim board chairman Lee Webber stated the board would take the matter under advisement. As for the search for a new individual to run GMH, only one individual has expressed an interest in running the island's only civilian hospital as a job announcement for the CEO/administrator position has been out for nearly one month and closes on Sunday.
Vega also reiterated the hospital's $7.2 million debt to the Retirement Fund that is currently the subject of litigation. GMH is working with the Governor's Office to see if that debt can be transferred to the General Fund as an obligation to get it off the hospital's books.
The board chose not to elect officers until they are first confirmed by lawmakers.
Associate Administrator for medical services Dr. Larry Lizama said recent issues and concerns at the hospital have been brought to the attention of the Joint Commission. Lizama added, "I would not be surprised if we have another visit (by JCO) given the discussion in the community." He said the management is also looking at privileges and staff credentials and ensuring there are proper processes in place for that as concerns were raised about how some individuals obtained privileges in the past.
"The medical staff is also working on the make-up of the peer review describing it as a 'work in progress', as GMH is nowhere where we need to be."
Physician salaries were also brought up including discussion on a story KUAM News brought our viewers on Wednesday about the hospital employing a pair of neurologists - one who works 20 days a month for $400,000 and another who works for 10 days for $180,000. The first neurologist only performed eight surgeries in 2009 and only one surgery last year despite receiving the full contract of $400,000.
Dr. Lizama told the board the contracts and the on-call pay for physicians is currently under review. He said they are looking to balance the high cost of providing service, such as neurosurgery, with the standard of care that's being provided at GMH.
He said there are other ways to recover costs and there should be contracts to capture the charges and have physicians perform, as has not been done in the past.