Confusion Persists About Where to Send Ambulance Patients

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The Guam Regional Medical City maintains that they are not turning patients away and want to make healthcare accessible for all.

Guam – There’s still some confusion about where ambulance patients should be sent to now that a new hospital has opened up on island. While there are now more options for patients, it’s not as simple as sending a patient to the nearest emergency room.

That confusion was experienced just recently in light of the Guam Regional Medical City opening up its emergency services yesterday for the first time.

While many might think it’s a simple as “send them to the nearest emergency room,” it really isn’t. This confusion continues to be raised now that a new hospital has opened up on island.

Guam Fire Department Spokesman Kevin Reilly tells us that while there are a number of factors in determining where a patient goes, it really boils down to one thing: life threatening emergencies. For example: cardiac arrest, heart attack or stroke. In those situations, Reilly says patients will be brought to the nearest facility, with one caveat; what’s called emergency room saturation. What that means is the ER is full.

This, he says is standard procedure. We spoke with GRMC’s ER Director Dr. James Murphy yesterday about these ambulance procedures.

“It’s the closest facility. I’ve been asked similar questions in, ‘Can we bring exactly where the patient wants to go.’ And it’s based on what’s wrong with them, their stability at the time. And after you’re in the business, you pretty much stick with that,” says Dr. Murphy.

However, there seems to be a lack of communication or understanding about where patients should be sent. A GMH employee who did not want to be named told PNC that they were advised by Guam Fire EMTs that that there are stipulations for taking in patients at GRMC.

This conversation took place after the GMH voiced concerns that the GMH ER was swamped. GMH nurses asked if patients from the north could be sent to GRMC instead. The employee says GMH was told that GRMC had stipulations for taking in patients which includes, among other things, what insurance coverage the patient has. The employee says they were also advised that GRMC could not accept pediatric patients.

However, GRMC says this is not true.

Reilly later clarified that while there is nothing set in writing, those patients with non-life threatening emergencies and are stable–for example, a minor fracture or sprain–will be sent to GMH, which he notes is considered GFD’s primary destination for transport.

But for life-threatening emergencies, the protocol is to send patients to the nearest emergency room, provided that they are not overloaded. All this will be communicated in advance, says Reilly.

GRMC, meanwhile, stresses that they are not turning patients away and in fact, say they only received one call from GFD EMTs yesterday–a patient who was suffering from respiratory distress. GRMC says that the patient was accepted at GRMC’s ER.

“The important thing I think for everbody to understand is if there is an unstable patient in the field and we have the ability, we have a bed open, we’re gonna take that patient,” Dr. Murphy told us yesterday.

Reilly sent another statement this afternoon saying “GFD has never stated that patients have been turned away at GRMC. They continue to accept patients via ambulance and welcome the opportunity to assist GMH in treating the island’s sick and injured.”