Money not the only reason why travel nurses left GMH

Guam Memorial Hospital (PNC file photo)

Higher salaries off-island is not the only reason why travel nurses brought to Guam by staffing agencies are leaving the Guam Memorial Hospital.

PNC reported last week that during the last GMH board meeting, it was disclosed that a number of nurses have left GMH for other health institutions in the U.S. mainland that are paying higher salaries for nurses.

One travel nurse who has since left says that the higher wage is not the only factor in their decision to leave Guam.

Nurse X, who prefers to remain anonymous and says these views are shared by a number of travel nurses, said one other reason is the contract drawn up by NuWest, one of the staffing agencies contracted by GMH to bring travel nurses to Guam.

“The NuWest contract is flawed. I have been a travel nurse for some years. I have 14 years of nursing experience. NuWest did several things I didn’t like. Number one, they downplayed the conditions of the hospital. They also left us to fend for ourselves after a 20-plus hour flight. We had to find housing, rentals, and when we came in, there was no cell phone service. I was fortunate to ask my Airbnb host to arrange a ride. Then most of us severely jet-lagged had to start work 1 or 2 days later,” Nurse X said.

The nurse added that they had no complaints about the people of Guam and that, in fact, they love the people, the island, and the GMH staff.

“But let’s be frank, GMH is an unsafe dilapidated building. It’s moldy, it has dangerous molding. The ceiling tiles are falling because the leaks are bad, the ventilation is bad for staff and really bad for patients including COVID-19 patients. This is not safe and they are putting people at risk,” Nurse X said.

Another problem that the nurse talks about is housing and the cost of living. The nurse said most COVID nurse staffing assignments pay for housing and the Guam deployment was presented specifically as a “crisis” job that should have free or subsidized housing.

“But the Airbnb people are greedy. I was paying $1600 a month. Hotels charge $1000-plus a week. The idea to travel is we save our tax-free stipend to save money. We look for cheap accommodations because we still have to pay our bills at home.”

Nurse X added: “My reason for leaving is I became ill from mold and I feel like my license is in jeopardy working under these conditions,” Nurse X said.

Other problems at GMH submitted by traveling nurses who have left and are still there include:

= Cockroach infestation;
= Black mold throughout;
= Spoiled, contaminated food given to patients;
= No hepa filters or ventilation;
= Malfunctioning, unsafe equipment;
= Unsanitary (patient care areas including COVID rooms not being regularly cleaned and sanitized);
= So-called staff decon areas are not regularly cleaned and sanitized;
= Wet, contaminated towels and blankets left laying all over;
= Dirty trash cans with dirty, contaminated water standing in them throughout the facility; and
= Lack of basic supplies needed for safe patient care.

The following photos were also sent to PNC.

Black mold can be seen at the ceiling.
Wet, contaminated towels and blankets left laying all over.
Dirty contaminated water at GMH.
Close-up of mold at GMH.
Water leaking from GMH ceiling.