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By Ryota Dei

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News , Aug. 10) -- Lawmakers recently approved a $6 million emergency subsidy for Guam Memorial Hospital, but the president of the Guam Medical Society said the hospital continues to waste taxpayer money on unnecessary personnel.

The hospital's Skilled Nursing Unit in Barrigada Heights currently employs 15 housekeepers, many of whom were transferred there after the previous GMH management privatized the hospital's housekeeping department.

Guam Medical Society President Dr. Vince Akimoto said if the hospital seeks multimillion-dollar cash infusions from local taxpayers, then the hospital management should be obligated to explore ways to reduce unnecessary spending.

"Almost every single audit that has occurred in the last five years has said we are overstaffed in insignificant areas and understaffed in clinical areas," Akimoto said.

Dora Borja, a housekeeper who works at the long-term care facility in Barrigada Heights, agreed that it is overstaffed with housekeepers.

She said five to six housekeepers would be adequate to maintain the two-floor facility, which opened in 1999 as a long-term care facility for patients in need of a more lengthy recovery period. The recovery center is currently equipped with 30 beds.

Only two government housekeepers worked at the care facility before the hospital's housekeeping department was privatized, Borja said.

Former hospital administrator Bill McMillan had tried to reduce the hospital's personnel expenses by outsourcing the housekeeping department.

After Advance Management Inc. won the contract last year to provide maintenance, cleaning and laundry services to the hospital, most of the about 40 housekeepers at the hospital were moved to other sections within the hospital, including 15 housekeepers being sent to the Barrigada facility.

McMillan resigned earlier this year, and that halted his restructuring efforts.

Current GMH Administrator PeterJohn Camacho said the Skilled Nursing Unit must be properly maintained in order to meet certain standards as a Medicare-certified facility.

But at the same, he also said that he will evaluate the staffing situation there and throughout the hospital.

"Whatever it is we need to do to improve our efficiency in our operation, we will explore because we must be accountable for the public for the expenditure of tax dollars," Camacho said.

But during an emergency session held last week to discuss the hospital's funding problems, Camacho had told lawmakers that the hospital doesn't have any unnecessary staff.

When Sen. Lou Leon Guerrero questioned him about the possibility of reducing the hospital's personnel expenses, Camacho said every GMH employee was critical to the hospital's operation.

Advance Management General Manager Monty McDowell said his company would be able to maintain the long-term care facility with only four or five workers.

"It's way, way, way, way, way, way overmanned. A businessman will never do that," McDowell said. "The Skilled Nursing Unit doesn't need that many people."

McDowell said he is willing to revise his contract with the hospital so that the 15 housekeepers at the nursing unit can do some of the cleaning and maintenance work at the hospital. He even said he is willing to hire those employees at a reasonable wage.

But the nursing unit's medical director said the housekeeping staff is adequate for his facility, adding that he expects better service from government-hired housekeepers than those from a private company.

"This unit is like a family. This unit is small, so everyone knows one another and has loyalty to one another," Dr. John Steele said.

"Housekeeping is a very intricate part. Not only keeping the facility up, they are also being responsive to our needs. It's much better to have housekeeping staff that is affiliated to this hospital.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

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