Guam – Governor Felix Camacho Thursday signed a bill into law that expands the borrowing authority of Guam Memorial Hospital by up to $25 million dollars. However both the Governor and GMH agree that borrowing more money will not resolve the long term problem of funding for the island’s only public hospital.
The financial crisis at GMH has snowballed over the past week with reports that the hospital ran out of 2 types of pain-killers; had to cancel an operation because of lack of supplies; and even a report of running out of enough bed sheets to change patient beds.. All of this coming on the heels of last week’s fiscal emergency declared because the hospital owes $22 million dollars to various vendors.
To help aliviate the immediate crisis, Governor Camacho Signed Bill 479 into law. Now GMH can borrow enough money to cover its $22 million diollar debt, if it an find a lender.
“Its not the answer,” said the Governor. “It simply transfers what they owe from … a series of vendors to one financial institution. That’s all it does.”
“The fundamental problem,” said the Governor, “is the inability for the hospital to pay.”
GMH Spokesman Connor Murphy agreed, but he said at least they can pay their immediate debt.
“Its definitely not a solution at all,” said Murphy. “It’ll give us breathing room for sure. And it will pay off these debts and get our vendors paid who have been waiting patiently for so long. That will give us the breathing room we need to take a good hard look at how the finances of the hospital operate.”
The problem, says Murphy is too many patients who can not, have not or won’t pay for the cost of their care.
“We can’t keep providing care to patients without being paid for it. It doesn’t create a sustainable operation,” said Murphy.
“We have to be paid for the care that we’re providing. Whether that money will come from Government of Guam, whether we increase collections with individual patients. Something has to be done.”
But what can be done?
Governor Camacho urged the hospital Administration to take the settlement being offered by various insurance companies for money owed to the hospital.
“They certainly have an opportunity in working with the insurance companies right now to take, from what I understand, at least 70-cents on the dollar for all that’s owed for claims against the insurance policies. They should accept that. The amounts are in the tens and of millions of dollars that can quickly resolve what they owe to vendors.”
In the meantime, the hospital is facing a deadline of Friday to pay its power bill of $39-thousand dollars. The Guam Power Authority has threatened to shut off power by Monday. As of this posting, Murphy said the funds to pay that bill have not yet been identified.