As Guam continues to see a rise in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas, and agencies from the local and federal governments recently completed a vital project at the Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH), 10 days ahead of schedule to accommodate those affected by the virus.
Teams from NAVFAC Marianas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Honolulu District (POH), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Health and Human Services government of Guam, Guam National Guard, and contractor Hensel Phelps worked to convert several rooms at the local public hospital to care for acute infectious COVID-19 patients.
“This project underscored one of the most rewarding assignments for the NAVFAC Marianas team in terms of mission criticality, inter-service and stakeholder partnership, innovation and collaboration,” said NAVFAC Marianas Deputy Operations Officer Manny Guarin. “Completing 10 days ahead of the 44-day schedule is proof that we succeeded and overcame the challenges working within an operating hospital faced with many unforeseen site conditions.”
As FEMA’s lead agency for engineering missions under the National Response Framework for Emergency Support Function #3, USACE POH received a request regarding GMH’s electrical issues impacting patient care. Without a construction office in Guam, USACE POH reached out to NAVFAC Marianas to provide on-island construction management support.
“Using NAVFAC (Marianas) allowed USACE to have a top-quality DoD (Department of Defense) asset on the project without taking the additional risk of flying in an off-island construction management team during the pandemic,” said Lt. Col. Woodrow Pengelly, USACE POH project manager/liaison officer responsibilities forward Guam. “With the people of Guam doing so much to serve the U.S. military, I was proud that on this mission the U.S. military was able to do something for the people of Guam.”
The completed project will provide more patient isolation rooms assuring a cleaner and safer working environment for hospital patients, staff and visitors. Work included the installation of air-conditioning and ventilation equipment, ductwork, pressure indicators, and refrigeration to achieve seven negative-pressure capable rooms; and the construction of an electrical distribution to supply 43 dedicated circuits for medical equipment in 21 rooms.
According to GMH Administrator Lillian Perez-Posadas, the renovated rooms fortify the staff’s ability to contain and minimize airborne transmission of the virus as well as other airborne infectious diseases.
“It was a sense of great assurance, relief and support knowing that the patient rooms are getting the much needed augmentation and enhancements all for patient safety, as well as safety for our staff,” she said. “Nurses can truly focus on the clinical and nursing care of the patients so they do not have to be alarmed and called the facilities maintenance team especially at odd hours of the night to check on the electrical outlets.”
The rooms, which are already occupied, are only one of many examples of the partnership between the DoD and government of Guam.
“Working at the speed of relevance and with a sense of urgency required all members of the team to embody a high level of trust, ownership, transparency, mission focus, and a willingness to take calculated risks and endure personal sacrifice,” said Guarin.
Perez-Posadas, on behalf of the local government, expressed her gratitude for the entire team and their efforts to combat COVID-19 and provide care for the people of Guam.
“We extend our heartfelt and immense gratitude for the support and successful completion of this project,” she said. “It is truly awesome that the NAVFAC Marianas, USACE and their contractor extended their expert skills and sacrificed their time to help us in our time of great need, all in the best interests of the patients who rely on us to provide them a safe place to heal and recover.”