GMH attempts to deal with house call crisis
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - Aside from the lack of finances, hospital beds and adequate staffing, the Guam Memorial Hospital is also plagued with another type of crisis that has tempers flaring from island doctors.
With the 10-15 new house patients GMH receives on a daily basis, there should be at least six hospitalists to care for those patients who have no insurance and no doctor. Department of Medicine chair Dr. John Ray Taitano says the hospital currently only has three who are threatening to quit due to an overwhelming workload. "We're overwhelmed and unable to get enough rest and seeing many patients and it produces an unsafe situation, because the physicians are very tired, can't sleep because they're getting calls all the time," he explained.
The hospital is now looking to private physicians for help until more full-time hospitalists can be hired. But during a Department of Medicine meeting this morning, Dr. Taitano says there was lively discussion about the idea that was met with resistance from a number of doctors who are opposed to having to take house calls, as they fear their private patients will suffer. "We're asking the private doctors, all the doctors of internal medicine, to provide house call coverage at least on a temporary basis until we get through this crisis," he said.
Some of the physicians suggested that Naval Hospital care for migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia to help alleviate the workload at the island's only civilian hospital that cannot turn anyone away. Dr. Taitano couldn't give a specific timeframe of how long the hospital would need the physicians' help, but says without it, the hospitalist program will fail.
He stated, "If that happens, then what will happen is those of us who are full time will quit. Then as a result of that then all the hospital house calls now being taken care of by the three will go to all the department members, which means everyone will be pulling call maybe two or three times a month."
GMH is already in the process of hiring a fourth hospitalist who has applied under a specific type of visa. The application review process was delayed due to the federal sequestration and has resumed.
Meanwhile, GMH administrator Joseph Verga says he and the board are currently reviewing whether taking house calls will be a requirement for those physicians who are granted hospital privileges.