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Guam Hospital Issues Discussed At Legislative Hearing
Administrator hopeful government will agree to payment exchange

By Joy White

HAGTA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Dec. 6, 2012) – The day-to-day financial and overcrowding issues of the Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH) were discussed during yesterday’s legislative oversight hearing on the hospital.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, chairman of the health committee, and Sens. Tony Ada and Tina Mua-Barnes grilled hospital officials on operations at GMH.

Debt is the major challenge the hospital faces. It was stated that the hospital owes about $22 million to various vendors.

A debt with Perry Point, a pharmaceutical company, has had GMH Administrator Joseph Verga negotiating with the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). Earlier this year, the vendor gave the hospital 60 days to pay off its $5 million debt or it would tap into the Medicaid funding the hospital receives.

Verga reported that DHSS agreed to assist but on certain conditions. Verga is required to outline how GMH will pay off the debt and stay current on the account.

In order to alleviate the debt to vendors, the hospital is concentrating on its billing and collecting efforts. According to acting GMH Chief Financial Officer Jun Infante, up to $13 million is being billed out a month.

"The collection is always the challenge," stated Infante, citing understaffing in the finance department.

Debt

Government help in alleviating debt is also on the table of options. Verga would like to enlist the help of the government to help pay GMH’s debt in exchange for reducing the amount the government owes to the hospital.

The government owes GMH more than $27 million.

"We’re at the process where we’re paying little by little, but we’re never going to pay over $22 million in debt if the government doesn’t help us out," Verga reported.

If this can be done, Verga said it would be a win-win situation for GMH and the government.

In other financing issues, Verga expressed confidence the new CFO can straighten out the hospital’s finances by updating the coding system and enhance revenues.

Verga also advocated aggressively collecting from self-pay patients and insurance companies.

Overcrowding

Addressing overcrowding issues at the hospital was also discussed at the oversight hearing. Recently, the hospital went over 200 beds, exceeding its capacity.

The emergency room in particular is full to bursting because patients who cannot be fit into other wards are kept in the ER.

Verga said the completion of the new ER and CCU expansion in 2014 would help. In addition, a separate facility such as an urgent care facility may also assist in the situation, Verga said, as a majority of the patients seen are not experiencing "true" medical emergencies.

Verga and the senators present commended ER staff for their hard work in the ward.

At the Barrigada Skilled Nursing Unit, six patients were held there for six weeks because they could not be accommodated by St. Dominic’s Intermediate Care Facility. Three were just recently transferred successfully.

Patients such as these cause an extra burden on the hospital, as they contribute to overcrowding at GMH because patients who need to be transferred to the SNU must wait at the hospital.

In addition, some patients have no resources to pay for their stay. They do not have family and do not qualify for MIP or Medicare.

Marianas Variety Guam: www.mvguam.com
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