GMH: Not clear how patient contracted COVID at hospital

GMH: Guam Memorial Hospital in Tamuning has seen a growing number of patients over the last few weeks. The island's only public hospital, which is also the COVID-19-designated facility, is pictured Sunday, Aug. 30. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

The Skilled Nursing Unit in Barrigada is ready to open just as officials report a growing number of COVID-19 patients.

There are nine patients on ventilators in the Intensive Care Unit and 45 COVID-19 patients currently being treated at Guam Memorial Hospital, confirmed Krystal Paco-San Agustin, the governor's spokeswoman. The governor has designated the island's only public hospital as a COVID-19 facility.

The increasing number of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization and intensive care is stretching the hospital's capacity.

GMH Administrator Lillian Perez-Posadas on Thursday said the Skilled Nursing Unit "is ready for occupancy." The SNU hasn't been used over the last several months because of a broken air-conditioning unit, which has a temporary fix. She didn't say how much the fix cost or who was awarded the contract.

"We're arranging and rearranging nurses' work assignments/schedules to ensure 24/7 staff coverage," she said. "As soon as that's all secured we may begin moving patients tomorrow or Saturday."

As GMH has worked to get the SNU up and running, officials have continued to make adjustments to increase capacity for COVID-19 patients. It's unclear when or if more non-COVID-19 patients will be moved to Guam Regional Medical City, which the governor has designated as the non-COVID-19 hospital.

Local doctors, including Dr. Ricardo Eusebio, have called for non-COVID-19 patients at GMH to be moved to GRMC to increase capacity but also provide additional assurance that they won't catch the novel coronavirus while in the hospital.

Current capacity

Capacity at GMH is stretched thin as 32 staffers, including nurses and doctors, have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in isolation.

However, a medical team, including two intensivists, 15 nurses and four respiratory therapists, from the Department of Defense is on island to assist GMH.

The additional capacity will provide much-needed staff to cover more beds – something that is a challenge for GMH, Perez-Posadas has said. In terms of bed capacity, SNU has 54 beds.

In a recent update on GMH in Tamuning, Perez-Posadas said the intensive care unit has five beds but when ventilators, which take up a lot of space, are used the room is limited to four patients.

In what's called COVID-Care 3, there are 17 beds.

In the telemetry unit – COVID-Care 4, which has ICU capacity – there are 26 beds.

The emergency rooms and intake areas also have additional beds for those patients who walk in and are either already confirmed to have the virus or are being tested for it.

Dr. Felix Cabrera, a member of the governor's physician advisory group, has projected Guam's hospitalization rate for COVID-19 cases could spike to more than 200 patients by next week if the current rate of new cases continues.

Guam, over the last few weeks, has seen anywhere from 45 to 105 new COVID-19 cases daily.

As of Thursday, 74 cases of COVID-19 were reported to the Department of Public Health and Social Services out of 718 tested, pushing Guam's total confirmed cases to 1,560.

To date, there have been 13 deaths. There are 831 people in active isolation, and 716 people not in isolation.

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