Guam Hospital Outlines Financial Status To Legislature

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CEO: GMH only collects 42 percent of bills, still short-staffed

By Jerick Sablan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 7, 2013) – Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH) officials said they are providing some of the most accurate financial statements they've had in years.

The GMH officials spoke with senators at a financial status briefing at the Guam Legislature yesterday.

GMH Chief Executive Officer Joseph Verga said since hiring the hospital's new Chief Financial Officer Alan Ulrich the hospital has been able to provide the most accurate financial data to its board and to the senators.

Realistic budget

Verga said this information will help the senators see how GMH operates and the realities it faces. It will also help them create an accurate budget to fit the hospital's needs.

"It's a stark difference from what the board and the public has previously seen," Ulrich said.

Verga said with a new strategic plan the hospital is looking to move forward and out of debt.

"There have been a lot of changes and there will be more to come," he said.

In the hole

The hospital, which bills about $140 million a year for its services, collects only 42 percent of that amount. Even with government cash subsidies, persistent funding shortfalls have left the hospital owing about $22 million to vendors, some of whom have limited or stopped service.

Verga said the debt has prevented the hospital from getting critical supplies.

Poorly staffed

It also has never had an adequate staffing plan, Verga said, explaining it's short-staffed in some critical, clinical positions and overstaffed in other areas, mostly nonclinical positions.

Any staffing changes would be reflected in the hospital's fiscal 2014 budget proposal, which is due to the hospital board at the end of the month.

Change perceptions

Ulrich said the hospital owes about $20 million to its vendors. And though the hospital its trying to pay off the debt, it's difficult, he said.

He said the hospital loses about $2 million a month, which prevents it from paying off its debt.

He said one way to increase the hospital's revenue is to change people's perceptions.

"We need to change the view that GMH is free," he said.

He said the hospital is looking to help self-pay patients and others to see if they can be put on Medicaid or Medicare to help pay their GMH bills.

"We will refill the coffers, but it's not going to happen immediately," Ulrich said.

Both Verga and Ulrich hope the hospitals strategic plan will bring some relief. The 2013 Strategic Plan represents a blueprint for the future, Verga said.

The five strategic goals in the plan are:

Better billing

The hospital's debt primarily is the result of problems with the hospital's billing and collections system, according to Pacific Daily News files.

That system has been responsible for how much the hospital collects -- or rather, doesn't collect -- from its patients, who primarily are uninsured patients and patients on public insurance programs such as Medicare.

Guiding acronym

The hospital's strategic plan calls for improvement, enhancement and accountability in its fiscal services division. It also calls for timely billing and complete documentation.

The plan also introduces Verga's "ACES + Q" initiative.

That's an acronym for what Verga sees as the key areas in which the hospital should excel: accountability, cost-efficiency, excellence in service, safety and quality.

The start date for the changes in the strategic plan is March 8, Verga said.

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