A bill that authorizes the government of Guam to borrow up to $30 million for the construction of an additional trash cell at the Layon Landfill is now public law.
The speed with which Bill 79-35 was signed into law to allow our government to build another cell before the existing cells get filled is an indication that our elected leaders are capable of acting quickly in the best interest of our community.
We hope they apply that same level of responsiveness, decisiveness and political will on the Guam Memorial Hospital issue. For decades, elected leaders have heard the cries of the people for a hospital that works. Too often, our friends, neighbors and family members are out washing cars or delivering special lunch plates in an effort to raise money for health care off island. Unfortunately, some aren't able to raise enough money in time and those fundraisers end up helping with funeral expenses.
Hospital officials recently went before the 35th Legislature requesting a budget that includes the perennial shortfall of $30 million and an additional $57 million to fund critical capital improvements projects.
Many of these projects affect the way our island's only public hospital's ability to regain The Joint Commission accreditation or maintain Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services certification.
Our people deserve better
But even more importantly, our people deserve quality medical care at a safe, clean and well-equipped hospital.
Ensuring that the roof doesn't leak, rain doesn't rush through the elevator shaft, the power panel doesn't fail and equipment is available for a child suffering from an asthma attack, or that supplies and expertise are on hand to help someone suffering from a heart attack – none of these are too much to ask. In fact, these are some of the minimum standards when we discuss what human beings deserve in their government hospital.
But our elected officials and the community also need to discuss what we want our hospital to be so fewer of our residents have to leave their families, homes and jobs behind to get the health care they need.
During recent legislative discussions on funding trash cells at the landfill, Sen. Sabina Perez expressed the urgency with which senators needed to take action.
"If we do not get this funding, then we risk the ire of the court and returning back to full receivership," said Perez, who introduced Bill 79.
She said the government of Guam has two choices: "Either finance the Layon Landfill under reasonable terms without raising (trash collection rates), or we can reject the bill and pay for the construction through an immediate and extreme rate increase."
Do the right thing
If elected officials do not provide the necessary funding and support for the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority, they risk the lives of hundreds of Guamanians counting on them to do the right thing.
How you decide to help the hospital today speaks to the future state of not just health care delivery but to the lives of people living on this island.
And as Perez said in the trash discussion: "Timing is of the essence."