Question: “What are the similarities between Guam Memorial Hospital and a ‘white elephant’?” Answer: “Both are white, bloated, and big, and very expensive to maintain.”
My mind wanders to an incident that I personally experienced more than two years ago. Place: Emergency Room (ER), Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH).
My blood pressure shot up to 220/120. I felt I would collapse! I pleaded with the hospital clerk, “Please, check me in now!”
Clerk: “Wait for your turn. There are people ahead of you.”
I looked around and there were around 15 people seated. “But I believe I’m much worse off than anyone,” I replied. “I feel they won’t mind.”
“Sorry,” the clerk said. “Besides, we’re short of personnel.”
That incident further increased my already elevated blood pressure. My daughter, who rushed me to the ER, calmed me down. I instructed her exasperatedly, “Should I die here unattended, sue this hospital!”
A doctor saw me after an hour.
Months ago, I brought a relative to the ER. Although he needed immediate attention for food poisoning, he was attended to after an hour. Similarly, some three years ago, my wife rushed our daughter to the ER. After pleading with the clerk to have someone attend to her soonest, she waited in pain for two hours!
We have never before experienced this kind of inefficiency in any hospital in the Philippines or in the U.S. Is this GMH’s standard performance? I wonder how many more are victims of the hospital’s ineptness and no-care attitude.
I realize GMH’s problems: shortage of funds, overstaffing – some 300 out of the almost 900 employed are non-medical personnel – too much politics, mismanagement and other questionable conditions.
This situation may also be true with the other hospitals in Micronesia.
Therefore, I strongly suggest that GMH should be privatized. There is a pressing need for Guam to take the lead in the region as a medical center.
Rather than patients going abroad, it is high time that we should streamline and modernize our hospital. Ultimately, this will increase local employment and thereby lessen dollar outflow. Let’s encourage entrepreneurial businessmen to explore the health-care industry, which is in great demand.
Moreover, if the United States can give generously to Israel and Turkey to the tune of $15 billion and $26 billion, respectively, how about our leaders negotiating for even a fraction of such aid? It’s worth trying.
How else could we alleviate these problems?
Lately, I told my wife: “I think we should rename GMH to exorcise its present image. Let’s call it either ‘White Elephant Hospital’ or ‘Mona Lisa Hospital’. But the latter sound more pleasant, right?”
Wife: “You’re still so romantic and forgiving after your traumatic experience there. Remember, ‘Mona Lisa’ is one of our favorite songs.
Lovingly, I replied: “It’s just appropriate.”
And I sang a part of it:
“Many men have been brought to your doorstep; they just lie there… and they die there…”
This was written in 2003 and lifted from my book Fighting for a Cause & More.
Did GMH improve? Judge for yourselves.
It is my hope that the new hospital, Guam Regional Medical City, will set the standard on how a hospital must be. Will this new hospital answer the medical needs of the region? I hear many pros and cons circulating around the operations of this new addition.
I wish it the best and Godspeed.
Please email your observations to this newspaper.
Patrocel Duque is the author of four (4) books and a musical drama: Mathematical Proofs that God Exists, Fighting for a Cause, Manning the Maritime Industry, Guam in War & Peace (poetry) and Our Life is Your Life (musicale).
Available worldwide: Amazon.com, National Office Supplies, bookstores in Guam & Philippines.