The Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) is planning to raise the current fees it charges for a sanitary permit and increase the penalties it imposes on violators.
Chief Environmental Public Health Officer Tom Nadeau announced the changes during the recent meeting of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association at the Guam Reef hotel.
From hotels and restaurants to massage parlors and beauty salons, roughly 3,000 businesses establishments on Guam have been issued sanitary permits.
The law requires that each of them is supposed to be inspected four times every year.
However, DPHSS Chief Environmental Officer Tom Nadeau says his limited staff has only been able to conduct 10 percent of the required 12,000 annual inspections and 45 percent of all health-rated establishments have not been inspected in the last five years.
“We’re going to increase fees for the issuance of sanitary permits to meet our legal mandate which is four inspections every year for 3,000 health-regulated establishments. We’re proposing to increase the fee scheduled for health-rated establishments from $290 base fee now up to $768 over a 5 year period,” Nadeau said.
Penalties for sanitary violations will also be increased. For example, the penalty for knowingly allowing an employee with an infectious disease to work will rise from $500 now to $5,000.
And the penalty for operating without sanitary permits will rise from $350 now to $2,500.
“Our focus will be on blatant and repeat violations. When I say repeat violations, I’m talking about repeat violations within a year. It doesn’t mean we’re going to assess companies for every violation,” Nadeau said.
He added that his division only has two to three inspectors available on any given day to conduct inspections and the fee increases are needed to hire more staff.
In recent weeks, Nadeau said virtually no inspections have been conducted because his staff has been focused on dengue fever prevention efforts.
“We have just not had the time, unless absolutely necessary, to inspect health-regulated establishments. And this is a big concern for us because just like the dengue response, if there is an outbreak of food-borne virus, it requires all our resources and God forbid to have one now when we are short of staff would be disastrous,” Nadeau said.