Camacho denies issuing gag order to GMH employees

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Guam – Among the things Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. is hoping to uncover through a special investigation of the GMH administration is whether employees were coerced to convey a specific message through a gag order.

On News Talk K57 today, GMH CEO Peter John Camacho denied those allegations.

But PNC obtained a memo GMH purportedly gave to certain employees with a clear narrative: that only funding will solve our problems.

The talking points were allegedly provided to certain employees and doctors of GMH to control the narrative on the GMH crisis and were to be used when speaking at a public hearing or press conference or if interviewed by the media. There were six points listed.

Here’s a summary:

  1. GMH needs help. Only senators can help it. Funding is the root of the issue and we need a dedicated funding source.
  2. You will not find the solution to GMH’s challenges in the information requested, you will not find it in another oversight hearing, or another FOIA request–you will find the solution in the funding bill before the legislature now. A dedicated funding source is required to improve patient care and modernize the hospital.
  3. The root of GMH’s issue is that it loses on average $30 million a year and it needs a dedicated funding source with additional funding to modernize the aging facility. This has been an issue for decades now and a solution is before the legislature fully fund GMH every single year moving forward and to address this problem once and for all.
  4. If senators are so concerned about accreditation issues, pass a bill that fully funds GMH. We will take the newly passed bill and use it as a strong basis for appeal should accreditation be lost.
  5. Funding is the primary responsibility of the Legislature.
  6. Senators, accreditation and the solution to GMH is now in the Legislature’s hands. Please be leaders and politicians.

But when pressed on this issue by News Talk K57’s Patti Arroyo, GMH Administrator Peter John Camacho denied the allegations.

“I was accused of issuing a gag order and I was like, why am I gonna issue a gag order when I know that if any reporter stands on the corner of the property, he or she could talk to anybody and it’s like why would I gag order anybody?” Camacho responded.

In fact, Camacho says the exact opposite of a gag order is what he ordered for his staff.

“In one of our directors meeting, and we were talking about that culture of safety and making sure that the employees weren’t being put in fear for their jobs, and I made it clear to the managers, don’t ever do that to any one of our staff because number one, you all don’t get paid enough to do the jobs that you need to do,” added Camacho.

But when health oversight chairman Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. joined in on the conversation, he too claimed that he’s also received the same message that employees were being forced to stick to one message and one message only: funding.

“Senator, do you feel at all that GMH had some kind of influence or that the administration had some kind of influence on the employees to speak within–to tow a certain line that the hospital was towing for the money pitch?” asked Arroyo.

“To some extent, yes, that’s what we understand, that’s what we’re being told and look I have no problem with people advocating for the hospital. Peter John and the administration knows that I’m the biggest advocate, even to a point where democratic colleagues have accused me of being too supportive of the governor. But it’s not about supporting the governor, it’s about supporting the hospital,” said Rodriguez. “If there is any of these behaviors that’s happening in the hospital and the mployees are being coerced and employees are being suppressed to speak the truth, that’s where I have a problem.”

Arroyo redirected the question to Camacho, asking, “Peter John, why would you think that someone would accuse you of trying to coerce your employees?”

“I don’t know, Patti. I don’t know how to answer your question. Maybe to try to derail the fact that we’re asking for a dedicated funding source,” said Camacho.

Other matters the senator hopes a special investigation will uncover is whether and why GMH management lied during official proceedings for the last three months, whether and why the hospital management used government resources for this agenda, whether and why they violated the Freedom of Information Act and to get the true financial position of the hospital, among other matters.

The resolution that would empanel a special committee to conduct the investigation is still in its draft form.