She stands gleaming in white like a shining city upon a hill. A beacon of hope for even those who are sick but with no money to pay.
Atop Satpon Point, Guam Memorial Hospital rises to accept the challenge of this pandemic. Built on rocks stronger than the sea, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people living to serve others, risking their own lives and comfort to do good for Guam.
Now overwhelmed with critically ill patients infected with the coronavirus, GMH is the scene of life and death occurring too often in silent isolation while the virus seeks to kill even our doctors and nurses.
The novel coronavirus has brought Guam to its knees, stranded our nation’s most powerful aircraft carrier on our shores, and forced the world’s churches to shutter their doors.
We are in lockdown spiritually and economically. Private corporations face bankruptcy, small businesses are closing, and many emotionally devastated citizens have lost their jobs and their life savings.
Then, there is the doomed Guam Memorial Hospital, which its administrator acknowledged is broken beyond reasonable repair.
Despite serving valiantly as our island's coronavirus hospital, the current hospital leadership appears committed to abandoning it and building a new hospital in the next five years.
Until then, Guam's sick children will have to be happy with the infamous, homicidal, decrepit electrical panel; broken concrete ceilings; leaky air-conditioning units; and long-standing infection control and hospital safety violations that Guam's senators have thus far funded.
The loss of Joint Commission hospital accreditation is damning testimony of GMH’s underlying failure. Guam’s pandering politicians continue to put political patronage and the funding of unnecessary employees before the safety of sick children. Guam’s policymakers continue to value payroll politics more highly than safe patient care.
Our senators have failed. While the governor and her team worked, the Legislature hid like cowards and worried only about themselves.
Rather than strengthen GMH and Public Health, our senators have refused to downsize unnecessary GovGuam payroll expenditures; they continue to make reckless and nonproductive operational excuses; and repeatedly betray the trust of the community by extorting vicious taxes under the guise of saving GMH.
Over the past two months, the senators had several emergency legislative sessions and none of them addressed the disasters in Public Health or GMH. Instead of being courageous or kind, they bragged about funding every nonessential GovGuam position while 30,000 private-sector workers lost their jobs.
This Christmas, let us pray for the death of the “me-first” attitude of previous Guam politicians. Our future senators must have the moral fortitude to immediately give GMH the $60 million generated by the tax increases done in its name. Regain accreditation. Fix the electrical panel. Fix the leaky roof. Make the hospital safe again.
Laterally transfer the 600 administrative and clerical GMH personnel to the Guam Visitors Bureau and the Department of Revenue and Taxation. Ask not what they will do there, ask rather 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 allow the emergency room to focus on acute, critical care.
Our senators need to defund special assistant and deputy director positions, and use that money to fund pay increases for GMH nurses. 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.
Require all GovGuam employees, retirees and their dependents to receive their medical care at GMH to keep the $105 million GovGuam health insurance dollar.
If our Grinch-like Guam politicians fail, then this November, angry island voters get the chance to let their voices be heard.
Until then, GMH will be what it has always been for our island: the place where people are born, where they are fixed, and where they die. Her workers come quietly from all over Guam to bring their skills of healing, ingenuity, intellect, kindness, wisdom, caring and perspicacity.
The sharp-sighted eyes of our people are truly upon us to reward their great trust that together we are stronger. Let us then move now victoriously together.
Dr. Vincent Taijeron Akimoto is a family physician from Tamuning.