United gives COVID-19 medical volunteers free ride to Guam

SUPPORT: United Airlines employees take a photograph with a group of medical professionals who flew to Guam to support COVID-19 response efforts at Guam Memorial Hospital. Contributed photo.

United Airlines has provided free flights to medical volunteers traveling to Guam to support the island’s COVID-19 relief efforts.

The airline has flown 81 medical professionals to Guam thus far.

According to a letter sent to employees, United officials noted that the airline remains one of the largest employers of the island and is seen as the "hometown airline of Guam."

“When local officials put out the call for support, our United team worked quickly to find a way to contribute and provide help,” the letter states. Asia-Pacific Airport Operations Managing Director Sam Shinohara and Micronesia Sales Manager Paula Monk have been coordinating with the airline’s Global Community Engagement team and Team Guam to transport the medical volunteers to the island.

United, like other airlines across the nation and around the world, have felt the impact of the pandemic on travel. Flights have been reduced and the airline recently furloughed thousands of employees nationwide. It continues to operate daily flights to Honolulu and Narita, Japan.

According to the letter, nurses and health care volunteers are expected to stay in Guam for up to four months. The program will fly volunteers through January.

“On behalf of the Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH) Board of Trustees, the Executive Leadership, Medical Staff, all the employees, the patients and their families, we extend our most heartfelt and immense gratitude for United’s offer to cover the cost of the airfare to bring these much-needed nurses and health care professionals from the U.S. to Guam, to GMH,” said GMH Administrator Lillian Perez-Posadas who previously served as United’s medical programs manager on Guam.

Posadas lauded the partnership with United Airlines, saying the “complimentary air transport support is beyond our expectations.”

“Their generous contribution has made a profound impact in ensuring GMHA continues to fulfill its mission of providing quality care in a safe environment.  By bringing in the additional staffing resources, there has been a great relief and a sense of hope that we can and will continue to provide the best care at GMHA for the people of Guam,” she stated. “By having the additional nursing staff, nurses are assigned to care for a more reasonable number of patients, especially with the high acuity, intensity, and severity of the COVID patients’ conditions.”

She also thanked the professionals who have traveled to Guam, leaving their families at home to support GMH during the pandemic.

GMH has partnered with organizations in the mainland to help find and bring medical professionals to Guam. NuWest Group is one of them.

Mona Veiseh, president of Healthcare, NuWest Group, said they started assisting hospitals responding to COVID-19 since the first patient in Seattle was diagnosed at a hospital right down the street from their office.

“Since then, we’ve helped community after community address the health care challenges that come with COVID-19 spikes. By the time the territory of Guam reached out for help, we’d nailed down our ability to bring not only the talent, but also the expertise, that hospitals need to set up effective systems,” Veiseh said. “Our nurses had previous experience with the illness, and our NuWest team brought the infrastructure for success.”

Shinohara welcomed the health care professionals who have traveled to Guam.

“This partnership was meant to give our island’s medical professionals much-needed rest and alleviate some of the stress that they’ve had to bear since the pandemic started. The reality is that we all need to do our part and do it now to help our island climb out of this situation so people can get back to work and kids can go back to school. We need to fix Guam first and that starts by supporting our hospital,” he stated.

“We extend our heartfelt thanks to all of Guam’s medical professionals and frontline teams who have worked so hard since March to care for our loved ones. As Guam’s hometown airline, it is our honor to help in the fight against COVID-19. We couldn’t think of a better way to support our community than by directly supporting Guam’s only public hospital.”

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