GMH nursing shortage looms anew as traveling nurses leave island for higher US wages

Guam Memorial Hospital (PNC file photo)

The Guam Memorial Hospital may again suffer from a nursing shortage as wages for nurses in the mainland United States skyrocket.

According to GMH administrator Lillian Perez-Posadas, mainland health institutions are now offering up to $10,000 per week for nurses.

As a result, many of the traveling nurses at GMH have left Guam to work in mainland hospitals.

According to Perez-Posadas, GMH has already lost 15 traveling nurses, and NuWest, one of the nurse recruitment firms where GMH gets its nurses, is asking for higher rates.

“At the same time, we also need to take into consideration, our own organic nurses, because we don’t want to keep paying higher rates for these agency nurses,” Perez-Posadas said during Wednesday’s GMH board of trustees meeting.

She added: “We have to come up with a plan to see what we can offer … what options we can offer our organic nurses … our local nurses here … so that we don’t lose them or make them resentful that we’re paying higher rates for others offering something similar.”

One possible solution that GMH is looking at is to avail of Emergency Medical Assistance from the federal government and the military. According to Perez-Posadas, such a request would have to go through Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero for transmission to the federal government.

“These are potential military teams that maybe can help us. I mean, if we lose this many nurses, it would really strongly justify some kind of federal assistance from the national level,” Perez-Posadas said.

However, she also pointed out that federal and military emergency medical assistance are also in demand in the mainland because of the continuing high cases of COVID-19 there.

“They’re also in demand. In California alone, there’s a big demand. And it really is a global challenge because of the COVID-19 situation,” Perez-Posadas said.

In the end, the GMH board of trustees concluded that they may be forced to ask GovGuam for subsidy if GMH continues to have a nursing shortage.

The board is also looking at initiating a study to look into the wage structure of nurses and other health care professionals in GMH to make them more attuned to current rates.