Patient's wife pleads with hospital to reconsider policy

PLEA: Long-time educator Gaylene Cruz is asking officials at Guam Regional Medical City as well as elected officials to allow her by her husband's bedside as a caregiver. Bill Cruz was admitted to GRMC to have an infection removed, but the extent of his condition now requires an amputation, his wife said. Contributed photo

One woman is taking her plea to be allowed by her husband's side as a caretaker to the leaders of Guam Regional Medical City and elected officials.

William Cruz, known to many athletes as Coach Bill, was admitted to GRMC to remove an infection in his foot. However, the infection was more severe than initially realized and the doctors are having to take additional action, said his wife Gaylene Cruz.

"He is real sick," she said. "His kidneys are in the verge of failing he was to be moved to (the intensive care unit)."

She said he's most afraid, right now, of dying alone.

"To not be able to be with your spouse – during the time they need you the most when they're are hospitalized and had serious surgery, to hear them cry they need you and want you every day because they are in pain and want you to hold them and comfort them – is torture," she said.

Gaylene Cruz said allowing a caretaker would benefit the patient by providing moral support during a traumatic experience. It also would benefit the hospital and the nurses, who are overwhelmed with patients and the stress associated with the current pandemic, she noted, pointing out the nursing shortage both locally and nationally.

'He needs support'

Gaylene Cruz explained that her husband has coped with a number of medical issues since 2000, including a quadruple heart bypass, diabetes and a previous encounter with a flesh-eating bacteria.

"... This time is more critical. He received devastating news so psychologically he needs support," she said, adding that he's told her all of the information has become very confusing.

Guam Regional Medical City didn't comment on the issue. However, on Aug. 16, following the governor's announcement that the island would be reverting to Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, the private hospital announced it would suspend all visiting hours.

"As Guam's coronavirus cases continue to increase, it is imperative that GRMC take the strongest precautions to protect our patients and staff," it stated in a press release.

Gaylene Cruz is urging officials to reconsider this policy, saying not allowing loved ones to be by the side of critically ill patients "is the most inhumane thing that the hospitals and the governor can do to a spouse."

"There needs to be a clear distinction between a caregiver and a visitor," she stated. "The issue I have with this policy is not that my husband can't have visitors, but the fact that he is unable to have 24-hour assistance from a loved one (caregiver). ... When he was sent to the hospital emergency room by his doctor, he was not mentally prepared to fight for his life alone. Poor mental health is a potential risk for chronic physical conditions."

Gaylene Cruz said everyone who goes into the hospital is screened.

"The employees come and go, they get exposed outside when they go home, to the grocery stores and other areas, (and) they get screened to enter work, which is the hospital and that's OK," she said. "Yet they can't identify a designated family member – not a visitor but a family member – at least for the critical care patients."

"When they do pass away, at least they won't be alone. ... To my husband: I love you and I'm going to fight to get to you before it's too late. I love you. In sickness and health is what I vowed to do!"

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