GMH shatters COVID patient records, now at 83; ‘we’re even occupying the gift shop’

Guam Memorial Hospital (PNC file photo)

Guam Memorial Hospital is over capacity and bursting at the seams, recording Tuesday its highest-ever number of COVID hospitalizations, breaking its own record just 24 hours later on Wednesday morning.

GMH reported 78 hospitalized COVID-patients as of Tuesday morning then by Wednesday morning, 5 more people were admitted taking them up to 83 total patients. Of the 83, 13 are in the ICU, 5 are on ventilators and 14 are at the SNU which acts as the hospital’s overflow facility for virus patients.

The youngest being treated is an 11-month-old infant and the oldest is an 87-year-old.

Lillian Perez Posadas, the GMH administrator, said: “We’ve never gone beyond 70…we’ve never even reached 60-plus. The most we’ve really been is around 60. So this wave is really going beyond”

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“We need more staff, we need more space, we need more beds…it’s not just COVID, we also still take care of the non-COVID [patients],” Perez-Posadas said.

Perez-Posadas says they’re recruiting more off-island traveling medical staff as the need continues to increase however, the need is great all across the country and we’re competing for scarce manpower.

“Right now, we have about 62. Because it’s not just from the one staffing solution agency, it’s from two of them. And, we’re looking for a third staffing solution agency…yes, we just need them,” Perez-Posadas said.

She added: “We’ve requested for 15 additional ER nurses, we’ve requested for 20 additional telemetry nurses for now…but if we get to over 100 patients…if we get into the triple digits for COVID-patients, then definitely we’re going to need more nurses.”

Perez-Posadas says some 7 more ICU nurses arrived last week and more are expected this week.

GovGuam is applying for FEMA help to pay for the traveling medical staff, typically with the local government paying 25% and FEMA taking on a 75% cost share.

Perez-Posadas says they’re also working with UOG’s nursing program to see if they can recruit people to even be nurse aides. She says they’re working with the Department of Labor to put together a fast-track training theory and skills lab for certified nurse assistants to support the RNC Units.

GMH is certified at 161 beds, but the current census actually goes over that number since newborn and pregnant mom beds don’t count as acute care.

Perez-Posadas says the hospital is over capacity in a big way.

“We used to have an urgent care clinic. We’ve converted that into an in-patient COVID unit. We used to have an out-patient specialty services area for people to get their cardio follow-ups, stress tests, and other cardiac-related outpatient services. We’ve had to close that and convert it into a COVID-care clinic. So we’ve added some beds, wherever we can. We’re even occupying the gift shop now … Yes, we’re using the gift shop for [outpatient] rehab services,” Perez-Posadas said.

Over the course of the pandemic, Perez Posadas says GMH has thus far used around 50% of their allotted CARES Act federal money. She says in all, they were given around $11.9 million. The money has been used for payroll and equipment at the hospital.

Perez-Posadas says the number of hospitalized patients is expected to grow and all they can do is continue trying to service people as best they can.

At last report, GRMC had 2 in-patients and Naval Hospital had 1 for COVID treatment, putting the island’s total at some 86 hospitalized as of Wednesday morning.