Guam Vital Records Office Loses Digital Documents

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Staff re-entering information from 3,000 hard copies

By Dance Aoki

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 4, 2013) – The government office that keeps Guam’s birth, death and marriage certificates lost thousands of those records when its electronic database broke down a few weeks ago.

The Office of Vital Statistics announced Monday it will be limiting its hours because employees are manually entering information into the database, using an estimated 3,000 hard copies of the computer records that were lost.

The lost computer records were from the month of October 2013 -- most of them birth certificates, officials said.

The broken piece of equipment responsible for the lost data was repaired, but the information needs to be re-entered into the system.

Deputy Director of the Department of Public Health and Social Services Leo Casil said the department also has asked the National Vital Statistics System -- where Guam sends its records -- to return the island's quarterly reports so the database can be rebuilt.

In the meantime, the hospital is sharing hard copies of birth records with the office.


Those whose information was lost in the crash and need their certificates immediately will need to get documentation from other organizations and bring them to Public Health to reconstruct those certificates.

For example, a mother who gave birth to a child in October, or a family member seeking the death certificate of a relative who died in October will need to bring the birth or death record from the hospital to Public Health.

Vital Statistics employees may not be fully caught up with restoring the lost electronic records until January, Casil said. Once the records are re-entered into the system, the office's service hours may be restored.

As it stands, the office will process only 60 requests a day -- 30 in the morning and 30 in the afternoon -- Monday through Thursday. Numbers for the line will be drawn at 8 a.m., then again at 1 p.m., with the elderly given priority. The window will be closed Fridays.

Casil said another backup server will be set up in a different location to prevent another crash in the system.

There was no electronic backup for the database in place at the time the equipment broke down, he said.

"We're confident we'll be able to retrieve (the lost records)," Casil said.

Few employees

Keeping up with the inputting of new records always strained the few employees already in the office, Casil said.

"Ever since we came in, (adequate staffing) has been a problem," Casil said. "We get temporary help, but that's temporary."

Some staff members retired, and the department is trying to recruit employees, but Casil said it hasn't been easy to fill those positions.

Casil said the department won't be able to use clerks or employees from other divisions who aren't trained to enter vital statistics data.

"We're restricted to people we have here," Casil said. "The processing isn't difficult, they just need to know the rules and laws."

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