Guam Memorial Hospital Granted 3-Year Accreditation

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GMH’s given high marks, but deficiencies still need addressing

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, July 25, 2013) – Hounded by perennial funding difficulties, the Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH) may be far from perfect, but the Joint Commission was convinced the island’s only civilian hospital meets the standards of medical care and patient safety.

The commission granted GMH another full three-year accreditation following inspection of the facility in April.

"Joint Commission accreditation signifies evidence-based progress at GMH that the people of Guam can take pride and comfort in knowing GMH can accomplish when we all pull together," said Joseph Verga, GMH administrator and chief executive officer.

Verga said the Joint Commission accreditation provides GMH a framework to elevate the hospital "to the next level and helps create a culture of excellence for our patients."

The hospital earned the accreditation despite the funding shortfall and budget shrinkage that crippled its ability to pay its vendors who are owed $20 million.

At least two recently enacted measures provide temporary relief to the hospital’s ailing finances. The controversial gaming machine tax measure, now Public Law 32-60, seeks to raise funds to enable the hospital to pay off its debts to vendors. Public Law 32-43 pledges $2 million in Compact-impact funds to GMH to expand its borrowing ability.

"Those difficulties and challenges continue, but I think certain actions and activities from that time, I believe, have shown that the government and everyone is committed to finally resolving these issues," Verga said at yesterday’s press conference.

"Certainly the government and all of the stakeholders are serious about improving the hospital and making sure the hospital has the resources it needs," he added.

High marks

Mark Pelletier, executive director of the Joint Commission’s Hospital Programs, Accreditation and Certification Services, said GMH has demonstrated its commitment to the highest level of care for its patients.

During the April visit, a team of Joint Commission surveyors evaluated the hospital for compliance with standards of care specific to patient needs, including leadership, medication management, and infection prevention and control.

"Accreditation is a voluntary process and I commend [GMH] for successfully undertaking this challenge to elevate its standard of care and instill confidence in the community it serves," Pelletier said.

GMH scored high for improving the accuracy of patient identification, the effectiveness of communication among caregivers, and the safety of using medications; as well as reducing the risk of healthcare-associated infections.

"GMH is working hard to get patients a bigger and better emergency room, and cleaner and more reliable facilities for maternity, intensive care, surgery and more," acting Gov. Ray Tenorio said in a press statement. "Accreditation speaks to this commitment. We’ve come a long way, but we have much more to do."

Work is not done

But GMH won’t rest on its laurels, hospital officials said.

"Achieving accreditation does not mean that things are perfect here at the hospital. Certainly there are some issues that we have to deal with," Medical Director Dr. Larry Lizama said.

"We are nowhere near operating a perfect hospital at this point, but we are recognizing our deficiencies. Rest assured that we are working on deficiencies," he added.

GMH has submitted a plan of action to address the areas that still need improvements.

"As we identify problems along the way, we come up with acceptable action plans that will avoid future negative outcomes," Lizama said.

"Unfortunately, we are not a hospital for all; we have some limitations. Sometimes, we don’t have specialty services to provide care," he said.

The Joint Commission will continue monitoring GMH’s performance and further progress.

"Every hospital in the States has issues to work at, but I’m really pleased where we are as an institution," said Dr. John Sidell, president of the GMH Medical Staff.

He credited the GMH administration and nursing staff for overcoming the challenges that came with "cultural changes" at the hospital over the past three to four years.

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