Public Health seeks $68.2M for FY18 budget


Issues such as staffing shortages continue to plague DPHSS.

Guam – The Department of Public Health and Social Services is seeking about $1 million more in their Fiscal Year 2018 budget request or about $68.2 million.

During their budget hearing Thursday, DPHSS administrators highlighted some of the issues they continue to face such as staffing shortages and lacking funding for equipment and isolation rooms.

“In FY 2016 … the full staffing is 198 [employees]. That staffing is since way, way back. I mean, what I’m trying to say is the total number of the clients that we do serve continually increases but our organizational chart and our staffing does not increase,” explained DPHSS Administrator of Bureau of Finance Tess Arcangel.

Arcangel says when she started working in the Medicaid and MIP program, they were servicing 4,000 clients in the Medicaid program and 4,000 in the MIP program.

“There are, Medicaid eligible is 43,000 now and MIP is 11,000. You can imagine the increase of those eligible,” she noted.

She also noted that while the number of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP recipients decreased, the number of clients they actually saw and interviewed increased.

“Despite the decrease in total number of applicants for SNAP, as you can see, the total number of clients seen and interviewed by our division continue to increase; from 2014, 79,000 and in 2016, 100,000 [clients],” she emphasized.

Arcangel attributed the decrease in the amount in benefits to an improving economy.

“The total amount of benefits issued is also decreasing. It could be attributed to the unemployment rate, it’s going down. I guess the economy is doing great and it could be also due to the minimum wage increase,” she said.

In addition, Public Health told lawmakers that they still do not have an isolation room to treat patients with tuberculosis at their main office.

“There’s no proper isolation room at the Central Public Health to treat these patients. We also have no facility to isolate patients with active TB so this is a problem especially with the homeless population and with non-complaint patients,” said Dr. Suzanne Kaneshiro, chief public health officer at DPHSS.