Guam – Health care is undoubtedly one of the main priorities of the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration. And the first step in making change happen is to identify the shortfalls.
The most immediate concern raised by the Healthcare transition team is the looming expiration of Medicaid funding under the Affordable Care Act of 2011.
Set to expire in September, the report states that expiration of the funding source will result in “catastrophic burdens on Guam’s already overly burdened healthcare dollar.”
Only six months away, the report recommends that efforts to ensure that the balance of that funding is secured for Guam’s Health care needs.
The first recommendation to address this is to establish and assign a special assistant for health transformation. Working out of the governor’s office, the special assistant would oversee and lead efforts to remove the federal Medicaid cap, re-base hospital per diem rate to national average for rural hospitals, increase Compact Impact allocations for health care based on MIP expenditures, begin efforts to privatize Medicaid/MIP and initiate efforts to develop Health Information Technology, which will be a repository for health information available to all health care departments and agencies, private clinics and providers.
The second area to tackle is to increase the purchasing authority of healthcare departments and agencies to allow for direct purchases of needed supplies, materials and equipment of up to $250,000.
The three-pronged approach to minimize procedural delays in the procurement process requires directors and purchasing personnel to be well-versed in GSA protocol requirements and standard operating procedures. It will also require a protocol to be established for the audit of direct purchases.
The report further recommended that the General Services Agency and the Department of Administration process for federal dollars be eliminated.
But money isn’t the only concern; lack of man power is a constant struggle. The transition team points out that the Department of Public Health and Social Services which has 107 vacant positions as a result of “ineffective and burdensome DOA recruitment process.”
At the Guam Memorial Hospital, staffing shortages have resulted in only 115 out of 164 beds being utilized.
At the Guam Behavioral and Wellness Center, the clinical administrator position has been vacant for over eight years, and the nursing administrator position has been vacant for four years.
Let’s not forget the troublesome task of filling the position of chief medical examiner, which was left vacant by the retirement of Dr. Aurelio Espinola earlier this month.
While the report highlights deficiencies within the health care field, it also acknowledges that the information provided “does not reflect the whole picture of the agency’s real issues.
However, the Healthcare Subcommittee was able to identify key issues with recommendations aligned with Gov. Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Tenorio’s healthcare platform.