By Lee Webber
Having lived on Guam since the early Fall of 1968 after coming from Vietnam I have had the opportunity to experience health care on Guam for nearly as many years as some of our elected officials have been alive and longer than some.
Much has transpired during those 56 years that includes much positive change and then again no change at all along with a bit of back-sliding to go with it.
My memory recalls the old Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH) in which my wife was born.
The rebirth of the Guam Memorial Hospital following the completion of the then-Catholic Medical Center only to become the new Guam Memorial Hospital where it sits today.
The Archbishop then, I believe Archbishop Flores, had a deep concern for the health and welfare of his flock but quickly realized that the new Catholic Medical Center, today’s GMH, needed to be in the hands of someone other than the church.
In walks the government of Guam!
The original site, is where the majority of healthcare professionals believe the new hospital should be built.
That brings us to the position with which we are faced today.
By transferring the new Catholic Medical Center/new GMH to the government of Guam, it was placed squarely in the middle of politics rather than medicine.
As Guam grew, physicians, nurses and other specialty personnel came to the island and built the support infrastructure around the area we see today in the medical community of Tamuning and Tumon.
The medical and support staff at the hospital grew as well and was padded over the years with numerous political hires, some of whom were good choices and others who were simply place holders.
Politics and medicine simply don’t work well together.
They tend to concoct a drink that hits your mouth something like lemonade without the sweetener.
It not only pricks the tongue but even upsets the stomach.
Politics on Guam obviously has little to do with ensuring the health of the community (at least here as is evidenced with the current condition of the Guam Memorial Hospital).
But, on the other hand, has nearly everything to do with making a living and getting it done “my way.”
Once elected far too many politicians seem to have gotten a “my way” chip implant as they believe they have become omniscient as opposed to being a public servant, doing what it is in the best interests of the majority of the community.
The old GMH site has the infrastructure and ample space (as is evidenced by many hospitals in Hawaii and other space confined areas in the world).
It is also surrounded by the majority of the island medical community support structure and existing infrastructure.
Maybe it’s time to shuck the “my way” thinking and do the right thing.
Find excellent hospital designers and engineers and build the new GMH at the old GMH site.
While we’re at it, let’s get politics out of medicine and privatize the new hospital at the same time.
Let’s make Guam Great again!
Lee P. Webber is a businessman and civic advocate, the former publisher of the Pacific Daily News, a former president and publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser, and a former director of operations for USA Today International/Asia