Dr. Tom Shieh, the doctor who has delivered more than 10,000 babies at Guam Memorial Hospital’s ancient maternity ward, is tired of the government of Guam’s excuses. It was nearly a decade ago, when he led the effort to have the Guam Legislature appropriate millions for the renovation and modernization of the maternity ward into a state-of-the-art labor and delivery unit.
The Calvo administration issued the procurement, but the financing hit a snag, when the bank run by the woman who would become governor next demanded more than the law authorized.
So, the maternity ward modernization became a campaign issue in 2018. The candidates for governor promised to make it a priority. Four years and a billion dollars in federal discretionary funding later, nothing has happened. And again, Dr. Shieh is taking up the fight to get the project financed and done.
“Mothers and babies deserve to be a priority,” Dr. Shieh wrote in a post this morning. “24,000-plus mothers with their babies came through GMH and have suffered enough. They cannot wait four more years or six to eight more years. The GMH OB ward, labor rooms and nursery must be updated now!”
Back on October 19, 2018, the Pacific Island Times in an article written by Mar-Vic Cagurangan, reported on a Guam Medical Association-sponsored debate that included (at that time) Bank of Guam CEO Lou Leon Guerrero, who was running for governor. The following statement was included in this 2018 article:
“If she became governor, Leon Guerrero said she ‘will find the money’ for the maternity ward improvement ‘because I am the only one here with financial management (skills) and knows how to manage money.'”
Fast forward to August 2022, and considering the deplorable conditions of the GMH maternity ward that still exists today, it is reasonable to concede that her financial management skills are not what she represented to be in that debate four years ago. After all, no governor has had more money and procurement power at the governor’s disposal as she.
In this same Pacific Island Times article, it was also reported that the bank connected to the governor hindered the project by putting last-minute impossible requirements into the loan being sought by GovGuam. Additionally it was also reported that there was “$650 million in government accounts sitting in the Bank of Guam and they wanted guarantee money for the loan.”
Multiple local news outlets reported the Bank of Guam’s additional loan requirements were not permitted by the project’s authorization legislation. In a January 24, 2018 Pacific Daily News article titled “GEDA to senators: We can’t do what Bank of Guam asked us,” author Haidee Eugenio Gilbert included statements by then-GMH Chief Financial Officer Benita Manglona and GMH physician Dr. Jonathan Sidell which were published as follows:
“GMH CFO Benita Manglona stated that Bank of Guam was making ‘extraordinary requirements’ as part of their negotiation on the financing contract. Rojas told Senators that the Bank of Guam’s requests were not allowed under the project’s authorizing legislation.”
“Dr. Jonathan Sidell questioned why Bank of Guam is making these new requirements. He asked are these requirements going to be the new Bank of Guam standard? He suggested that something strange was going on.”
The governor’s 2018 election year claim that the issue was financial management, and that she alone had the wherewithal to get the project done gave hope to doctors, nurses, and the community that the maternity ward would actually be modernized. It’s been four years. Not one finger has been lifted to get it done. And, Dr. Shieh, is tired of the excuses.