We all have others to whom we must listen and by whom we are held accountable. These are often those whom we serve, such as our parents, our family, our friends. Sometimes, we will be held accountable by those whom we lead, such as colleagues or students or even little children. Over the past few days, I have been held accountable by such people for my recent public criticism of the Guam Memorial Hospital.
Apparently, many of our people have a deep love of GMH and I unintentionally offended that love by my harsh, honest, incisive, and biting commentary about decrepit, leaking, foul facilities; protracted patient safety violations; and mean-spirited tax increases on food and medicine to fund a stubbornly bloated, local government payroll.
If my words stung anyone, I hereby apologize to the many hard-working, honest, and kind front-line employees at our beleaguered Guam Memorial Hospital.
Problem: Leaders promise money to fix GMH, hire administrative sycophants instead
For the past 14 months since losing hospital accreditation, you have been subjected to savage criticism by members of our frightened community, your disgruntled patients, and even well-meaning medical doctors like me.
The sting of your shame is only magnified by the public recognition of long-standing hospital safety violations. Pseudomonas-stained towels strewn under black moldy ceiling tiles; Legionella bacteria brewing within leaky air-conditioning units; and widespread systemic operational failures surround you daily. But the humiliation of being the only local hospital to lose accreditation is not the fault of the honest, hard-working GMH employee who works rain or shine, 24/7, 365 days a year.
You have been betrayed by our government leaders who have falsely promised monetary relief so that necessary medicines and hospital supplies could be purchased. You have been insulted by your own human resource officials who defend substandard nursing and allied health professional wage structures while hiring overpriced business consultants and attorneys. Even now, a politically motivated tsunami of newly hired, unnecessary administrative sycophants deluges the GMH parking lot with a logjam of cars bearing still-new GRMC employee parking decals.
Reason: Hospital, GovGuam leaders value payroll politics more than safe patient care
As the great Yankee philosopher Casey Stengel once said, there are three kinds of people: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who ask, “What happened?”
Joint Commission national certification had meant that Guam’s hospital met the highest standards for safe patient care which is central to GMH’s core identity. Over the past three years, while GMH failed to prioritize patient safety, the Naval Hospital Guam and Guam Regional Medical City actively maintained accreditation.
The protracted and persistent loss of accreditation is damning testimony of GMH’s underlying weakness and failure. Hospital and government leaders continue to value payroll politics more highly than safe patient care.
In other words, GovGuam has thrown the taxpayers of Guam under the bus. As I scrape myself angrily from the road, I would like to join those of you tired, poor, huddled, wretched masses yearning to make good things happen for GMH.
Solutions: Nix excess admin staff; give GMH $60M from tax increase; raise nurses’ pay
Unlike some pessimistic politicians, I believe GMH has the talent to reattain national accreditation patient safety standards. I hereby acknowledge that I have the will to do what is needed and I now loudly offer the following solutions to our hospital’s life-threatening problems:
1) Laterally transfer 300 administrative and clerical personnel to the Guam Visitors Bureau and the Department of Revenue and Taxation. Ask not what they will do there, rather ask what are they doing at GMH. With that transfer, GMH will have $17 million to hire the necessary clinical staff to open 45 unused hospital beds that will then allow the Emergency Room to focus on acute, critical care.
2) Immediately give GMH the $60 million generated by the vicious tax increases done in its name. Regain accreditation. Fix the electrical panel. Fix the leaky roof. Make the hospital safe again.
3) Require all GovGuam employees, retirees, and their dependents to receive their medical care at GMH to keep the $65 million GovGuam health insurance dollar. If GMH is good enough for Guam then it is good enough for GovGuam employees.
4) Outsource GEDA and GVB and fund those inorganic and non-critical functions with taxes on hotels, banks, insurance companies, and GRMC. De-fund special assistant and deputy director positions and use that money to fund pay increases for GMH nurses.
5) Redirect the $45 million Tourist Attraction Fund to the GMH administration for capital improvement and continuous facilities maintenance expenditures at the hospital. Complete the long-promised OB ward renovations.
6) “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” – M. Mead
Vincent Taijeron Akimoto, M.D., is a doctor of family medicine on Guam.