Guam Senator Suggests New Hospital, GMH

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Collaborate
Private hospital could keep specialists on-hand: Rodriguez

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 6, 2013) – Officials involved in public-health policy on Guam had some suggestions on how the future private hospital could gain community support for the developer's proposed tax breaks.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr., chairman of the legislative health committee, suggested the Guam Regional Medical City's developer offer a guarantee that it will always have doctors who specialize in diseases that are some of the leading causes of death on the island.

Specialists in cancer care, cardiology, diabetes, neurology and autoimmune diseases are some of the people the hospital must guarantee to have on staff, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said, in general, he supports the $219 million development -- primarily an investment by the Philippines-based owner of The Medical City -- as a project that fills a void in Guam's health care industry.

The hospital's shareholders are paying close to $100 million, with the rest being financed, documents filed with the Guam Economic Development Authority show.

Currently, island residents don't have an option for private hospitalization on Guam. They must travel off island if they don't want to be in government-run Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH), or if the public hospital can't provide the care they need.

The Guam Regional Medical City has estimated about 15,000 Guam patients leave island every year to receive specialized and higher-quality health care. That's an estimated drain of about $58 million a year on the island economy, the private hospital developer has said in a presentation to the Guam Economic Development Authority (GEDA).

Collaboration

Rodriguez said he would like to see the Medical City collaborate with GMH, by, for example, offering specialists to help GMH when life-threatening, emergency situations arise.

The private hospital plans to open with 130 beds. GMH has 158 acute-care beds and Naval Hospital has about 43 beds.

A community of Guam's size needs at least 360 beds, the Guam Regional Medical City states, leaving Guam still short of hospital beds even when the private hospital opens.

Community outreach

Guam Public Health Director James Gillan said he would like to see more details of how the private hospital plans to help the island community.

For the hospital to gain community support, Gillan said he'd like it to help the northern and southern Public Health clinics on Guam.

Gillan said he also would like the private hospital to offer community outreach, such as free clinics, particularly to neighborhoods of regional migrants who lack or don't have access to health care.

As the new hospital brings in specialists, Gillan said he'd like for the specialists to offer training to local health care staff.

The private-hospital developer awaits the government of Guam's decision on its application for tax breaks under the qualifying certificate program.

The private-hospital developer's QC application shows it seeks:

Tax breaks supported

Gov. Eddie Calvo has said he supports some form of tax breaks for the Guam Regional Medical City, though he's undecided on the level of tax breaks that will be granted until the Guam Economic Development Authority conducts a thorough cost-and-benefit analysis.

GEDA may need weeks to a couple of months to complete its analysis, the agency has said.

In requesting tax relief, the hospital developer argues, in part, that its $219 million investment has a multiplier effect on the local economy of three times that amount. The new hospital developer said GEDA's economic benefit multiplier ranges between 1 and 5 times the dollar value of an investment.

The hospital developer also said the jobs it will create and the local purchases it will make will benefit the local economy. Laundry, food service, waste disposal and other services not directly related to hospital care are being outsourced.

During construction, the project employs about 290 workers, 75 percent of whom are local hires.

When the private hospital opens next year and after it becomes fully operational, it expects to have 40 hospitalists and 345 allied medical and support staff and plans to credential 250 medical staff across all clinical services, the private hospital developer said in a presentation to GEDA.

Extra scrutiny

Rodriguez did note that he feels the developer is being given extra scrutiny when other previous applicants for tax breaks under the qualifying certificate program didn't get as much attention before their applications were approved. Insurance companies, for example, are given minimum-tax-break guarantees but they didn't get the same level of scrutiny the private hospital developer has faced so far, the senator said.

The private hospital's developer calls for fairness.

"Given what (we're) investing into our community and what we are offering to the people of Guam, we do not feel our application is any less deserving than any of the other QC applicants who were granted full benefits," said Guam Regional Medical City CEO Margaret Bengzon.

In terms of offering the community more as a trade-off for tax breaks, Bengzon said, "my preference would be programs related to health promotion and disease prevention, especially those involving patient education, as this is the most cost-effective and sustainable type of health care spending."

"However, this is a matter that is up for negotiation with GEDA, and we are open to other ideas," Bengzon said.

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