Guam Corrections Mum Over Loss Of On-Site Physician

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Aside from not paying doctor, DOC also owes GMH for services

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Jan. 31, 2014) – Guam’s Department of Corrections (DOC) remains silent on a looming health care crisis in the prison stemming from its medical director’s refusal to continue providing onsite physician and on-call services to inmates due to payment disputes.

Dr. Raja Saad stopped seeing patients at DOC facilities on Jan. 25 and vowed to resume his services once the prison administration addressed the concerns he raised on Jan. 6.

"These terms include timely payment upon receipt of invoice (every two weeks); onsite services to be paid in amount originally agreed in his contract at the rate of $100 per hours; and on call services to be paid in terms outlined in the original contractual amendment," Saad, medical director, and Dr. Andrea Leitheiser, clinical administrator, stated in a Jan. 24 memo to the DOC director.

Based on information posted on the department’s website, DOC’s original contract with Saad was priced at $208,000 for the period covering Dec. 3, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013. The amended contract beginning Oct. 11, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014 raised the price to $304,500.

Besides treating patients, the contract also covers fees for Saad’s performance as medical director and consultation services.

Late last year, Saad suspended his services for DOC for late payments.

Phone calls to DOC Director Jose San Agustin were not returned as of press time.

According to the memo, Leitheiser will continue providing onsite mental health services for inmates until her contract expires on Feb. 12.

Saad and Leitheiser advised DOC to send all medical emergencies to Guam Memorial Hospital.

"We recognize that the nurses and Dr. Leitheiser are not trained to medically triage and don’t endorse that they are making emergency medical decisions, rather they are engaging in educated conjecture regarding who will be sent," the memo said.

Saad gave the nurses a list of emergency symptoms.

"Drs. Saad and Leitheiser have advised nursing that we must practice within the scope of our licenses and are not authorized to engage in any medical practices that require the oversight of a physician," the memo said.

Hospital officials earlier said DOC still had outstanding fees owed to GMH for services provided to inmates.

DOC is currently facing a lawsuit in federal court filed by inmates who have complained of nonfunctioning air-conditioning units, worn-out mattresses, untimely and inconsistent meal schedules, and no sanitation supplies, among other concerns.

In a budget submission for fiscal 2013, the department set a goal to avert another lawsuit, specifically one related to a medical care deficit in its facilities.

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