Guam – Too many women give birth in pain at Guam Memorial Hospital and Dr. Tom Shieh wants it to stop.
A common procedure, known as an epidural is available to relieve the pain of child birth. But it is rarely used at GMH, even though epidurals are the most common form of anesthesia provided to women to alleviate the severe pain of child birth.
Over the past 26 months, from January 1st 2010 until last Friday, March 30, just 46 epidurals were performed at the hospital, even though hundreds of women gave birth there during that time.
Dr. Tom Shieh Wednesday sent a letter to the Governor , to GMH, to the Legislature and the media pleading for their help make epidurals more readily available at GMH.
Part of the problem, says GMH Medical Director Larry Lizama, is having enough anesthesiologists on call 24-7 to respond to the need for epidurals. As it stands now, Lizama says there are only 6 full time and 2 part time anesthesiologist, and they are either scheduled, or called on to provide pain relief for many different procedures, not just births.
GMH has lost 2 anesthesiologists in the past year, and may lose another this month. Lizama says he would need at least 2 more full time anesthesiologist to provide the 24-7 availability of epidurals that Dr. Shieh and others are seeking.
And Dr. Lizama points out, GMH must also weigh the costs whenever a patient and their doctor request an epidural from a staff anesthesiologist. Medicare and the Medically Indigent Program [MIP] do not cover the cost of epidurals.