More off-island medical staff arrive but GMH struggling to secure sufficient numbers of staff

Increases to just some nurse salaries would lead to disparity among all. (PNC file photo)

As the COVID-patient numbers continue to rise at Guam Memorial, the hospital says it’s up against stiff competition for the seemingly scarce resource of medical personnel.

Lillian Perez Posadas, the GMH Administration, says they’re working to recruit more off-island medical staff. But, she says they’ve already heard from at least one of the staffing solution companies they’re working with, that getting people out to Guam is not that easy.

“They [tells us] they’re challenged with getting candidates to apply to and to then be in agreement to be assigned to an island in the Pacific. So, one company hasn’t been able to really get us the numbers we’re requesting,” said Perez Posadas.

The hospital is in desperate need of more nurses and other specialized staff, though the Administrator confirmed that 19 additional telemetry nurses were to arrive this weekend.

The staffing struggles are in addition to the actual physical space GMH also needs. Perez Posadas recently revealed that the hospital is using up every space they can at GMH for treatment, including the gift shop. 

10 Blu Med Tents recently arrived to island to support the need for additional space; Perez Posadas says they requested two of those for GMH immediately.

Perez-Posadas says they’re trying to work with a third staffing solution company but with the need so great all across the country, the competition is high for scarce manpower.

“Right now we have two warrior tents at the hospital, one that’s used for dressing and gowns when staff deal with COVID-positives and the other is right outside the ER and that’s for staging…that tent will be replaced and we’ll put the Blu Med Tent closest to where the overhang is, so that if it does rain we’ll be covered,” said Perez Posadas.

The second will be in the doctor’s parking lot area, which will be used for stable patients who are either awaiting discharge to their homes or transfer to the COVID-Isolation Facility (CIF) – also known as the SNU in Barrigada Heights.

She said the Warrior Tent currently set up for the Guam Fire Department to do their “donning and dowsing” will remain on the grounds but will be moved to a different location.

On Saturday, Perez Posadas confirmed with PNC News that the Blu Med Tent assembled Friday night by the Guam National Guard is the one in front of the ER. That will be used for COVID patients needing treatment.

They are awaiting the second for the doctor’s parking lot.

But despite the increase in space, Perez Posadas says they continue to struggle with staffing.

She says they continue to request additional off-island traveling medical staff and trying to work with a third staffing solution company. She says however with the need so great all across the country, the competition is high for scarce manpower.

She said, “we’ve requested for 15 additional Registered Nurses in ER. We’ve requested for ICU level of care an additional 10 from one company and another 10 from another company. We’ve requested also telemetry nurses…we already requested about 20 and I believe we’ll have 19 by this weekend. So, we’ve requested an additional 5 telemetry nurses.”

She says they’re also asked for 8 Nurses Aides and more cardiac monitoring technicians.

The rate for the traveling nurses can be as high as $145 per hour however, that amount goes to the staffing solutions company who then pays the nurses based on their specialty. The fee also covers the cost of travel, accommodation, transportation to and from the hospital while on Guam and some meals.

Interestingly, Perez Posadas says United Airlines is helping cover some of the costs of the airfare so they’re working with the companies now to see if that can be reflected in the price per hour, to help lower the amount.

GMH also has a request for Registered Respiratory Therapists; 3 of them from a placement agency and 4 through the federal department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Jenna Blas, the Acting Administrator at the Office of Civil Defence told PNC News there are still ongoing conversations with HHS and FEMA about bringing additional staffing to support GMH, much like the 22 DoD personnel who were here in September, though nothing has been confirmed.

“We still have ongoing [requests]…for hospital intensivists, registered respiratory therapists, physicians, certified nursing assistants, and cardiac monitoring technicians. Again, it’s really just based on what can be fulfilled with the current contracts in place and then if there is a need to outsource further, they go through our office for the resource request with HHS and FEMA,” said Blas.

Perez-Posadas says they’re also working with UOG’s nursing program to see if they can recruit students as nurses 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.