VIDEO: Closing Arguments Highlight Divide Over Whether There Is a Health Care Crisis at DOC

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Guam – Following nearly a week of testimony, closing arguments were heard this morning in District Court over the status of health care at the Department of Corrections.

Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Guam Attorney General continue to disagree over whether or not there is a “crisis” of care at the island’s prison.

DOJ Attorney Jeffrey Murray argued the evidence presented over the past week shows there’s been a decline in the ability of inmates to access health care and he said DOC has no solid plan to tackle the concerns raised by Medical Director Dr. Raja Saad. 

Since last year, Murray said that inmate access to health care has fallen from 31% to 23% now. 

1. “This means DOC has made no effort” said Murray. Adding “we have no idea when it can be accomplished because we don’t know what DOC’s plan really is”

2. “We set the foundation, I don’t know why it seems GovGuam wants to re-invent the wheel” said Murray.

3. He said, DOC needs to provide “adequate staffing with the growing population of DOC”…which he noted is double the size of its capacity.

However, Assistant Guam Attorney General Donna Lawrence defend the prison administration. 

1. She said Dr. Saad wants to turn DOC into something the island’s prison is not capable of

2. She said the fact that only 31% percent of inmates get regular access to care is nothing new 

3. She said “hiring takes money…and the reality is that we want to bring someone on board…and Director San Agustin is all for it if he has the funding to do it.”

Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood said she “finds it alarming that inmates don’t have access to sick calls” and “inmates need those medical, dental and mental care otherwise there would be a crisis.”

She ordered the DOC Director to provide an updated report on the number of inmate sick calls and how many were seen every two weeks. She then said “if there’s already a national standard, let’s follow it and not cause another 23 year delay”. 

Judge Tydingco-Gatewood gave DOC and DOJ 90 days to come up with a scheduling order. The next status hearing is scheduled for September 3rd.