Guam – Guam Memorial Hospital employees who want to retire now, can not collect their retirement benefits until employee contributions are up to date. That’s because GMH has not made retirement contributions on behalf of its employees for the last 2 months.
Public Auditor Doris Flores-Brooks points out that as of December, GMH owes the GovGuam Retirement Fund a little over $3 million dollars.That’s why the retirement fund is taking GovGuam to court to force the payment of retirement fund benefits.
It is the latest in a series of fiscal crises facing the island’s only public hospital. The financial problems have been compounded by GMH Management’s inability to get a handle on their their operating expenses which Flores-Brooks says have consistently exceeded the amount of money the hospital has been able to take in.
One reason why operating expenses have exceeded revenues is that the number of employees has risen in recent years. At a time when the hospital can least afford it, Flores-Brooks says 200 new employees have been added at GMH in the last 4 years.
And, the number of staff members is unlikely to fall from retirement because GMH is behind in its benefit payments, and no one will choose retirement without benefits.
However, she believes that the fundamental problem at GMH is that, by law, the doors at the island’s public hospital must remain open to everyone, including those who don’t or won’t pay.
There are no easy answers says Flores-Brooks. She recommends a blue-ribbon panel be formed. The panel should draw on experts from off island as well as a broad segment of local leaders, including from GMH, and they must be tasked with hammering out the tough solutions that are necessary to bring GMH back to fiscal health.