GMH still facing staff shortages; 22 nurses currently off, infected with COVID-19

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Guam Memorial Hospital
Guam Memorial Hospital (PNC file photo)

Despite the injection of several added support staff at Guam Memorial Hospital, GMH is still facing shortages and overworked medical teams.

As of Monday, Sept. 14, 22 registered nurses at GMH were out of rotation as they isolate with COVID-19. That’s out of 51 total staff who have tested COVID-positive since August 10th.

GMH administrator Lillian Perez-Posadas says GMH staffers are contracting the virus both inside and outside the facility.

“In the beginning, most of them were catching it from the home, from the community. That’s how it started. But now, there’s more exposure because of the high numbers, plus they’re exhausted so they’re more at-risk … but yes, we continue. And it’s not something uncommon, even in the states, many of the healthcare workers [have caught it] as much as we try to protect them with all the right PPE gear and training…there’s always that possibility,” Perez-Posadas said.

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The hospital was recently training a contingent of GDOE nurses sent to the hospital to help with the pandemic.

They started at 15, went down to 13 on day one of training…then 3 more nurses dropped out. And now, only 5 actually remain to support operations.

“The school nurses, many of them haven’t practiced hospital nursing so of course, there’s a lot of anxiety. Coupled with COVID, more anxiety, more fear, and more worry and panic…and, more resistance. And, it’s not in a bad way at all, it’s just human nature,” Perez-Posadas said.

The hospital also has eight Guam Guard medical personnel supporting as well.

“When the patients need to turn, they’re helping out, augmenting the nurses so that the nurses can focus on other higher-level things they need to do as registered nurses,” Perez-Posadas said.

There are also 21 DoD active duty staff deployed to Guam for 30 days to support GMH’s COVID care. These were personnel approved by FEMA.

While she says the additional help is great, Perez-Posadas says they’re still short-staffed and juggling people around to try to meet the hospital’s entire need, not just the COVID-related wards.

Hospitalizations are slowly declining but the hospital’s administrator says new positive cases continue piling up, which means more people could end up needing medical care.

“These are really, really sick patients and so any moment, like Dr. Jolene Aguon said, they could be doing fine, next moment they can crash,” Perez-Posadas said.

The SNU opened up some 10 days ago, on September 4, after the air conditioner was fixed. But no patients have actually been moved there yet. As Perez-Posadas says again, they don’t have the staffing capacity to facilitate the move.

As of Tuesday morning, GMH had 45 hospitalized patients admitted for COVID-treatment, 12 of which are in the ICU and 10 on ventilators.

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