IN JOURNALISM, an event is usually considered more newsworthy if there is something unusual about it. Likewise, commonplace events are not typically considered news.
The Guam Memorial Hospital is crowded and beds for the sick and dying are few or none. This situation has been documented daily for more than 10 years since the government of Guam stopped lying about the hospital’s problems.
For more than a decade, GMH has lacked critical medical, nursing, and Allied Health staff that would allow the available 50 empty hospital beds to be used. Not enough nurses, not enough medicines, not enough clean blankets and pillows. Sadly, for the people of Guam, this is not news.
Unexpected news did emerge last week that may soon resolve many of our island's critical healthcare needs. Over the past 18 months, more than 15 highly-qualified, U.S.-trained doctors have moved their medical practices to Guam. This unanticipated buildup of new physicians in the civilian community is certain to have an impact both within and outside the military gates. As the Armed Forces struggle to attract doctors to its service, Guam is experiencing a bountiful harvest of well-trained medical professionals.
The arrival of four of the youngest new island doctors was the subject of yesterday’s excellent Marianas Variety article written by Therese Hart. The doctors were interviewed last Thursday night during the Guam Medical Association’s weekly program on the popular K57 radio station.
The forum of local physicians of whom you've never heard included anesthesiologist Dr. Hyo Sang Ji, who left to study off-island and has now returned because “Guam is my home.” Dr. Ji grew up in the rolling hills of Piti and went to school at Jose Rios Elementary school and Bishop Baumgartner School in Sinajaña. Dr. Ji is the new medical director at the Guam SurgiCenter and looks forward to joining the staff at the Guam Memorial Hospital.
Diabetes and thyroid disease specialist Erika Masuda, MD, has joined the American Medical Center in upper Tumon. A 1997 graduate of the Academy of our Lady of Guam, Dr. Masuda is a member of the Cabeza clan of the Flores family from Yoña.
Dr. Lilybeth Sistoza is an accomplished internal medicine specialist now practicing at the Tumon Medical Clinic, joining the institution first started by the esteemed Dr. Marciano Santos. Dr. Sistoza is a graduate of the world-renown University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in the Philippines. She completed her medical residency training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Ill. Dr. Sistoza looks forward to sharing her expertise at the under-staffed Public Health community health centers and GMH.
Another new doctor to Guam, Dr. Felix Cabrera, is from the Northern Mariana Islands and currently is on staff at GMH as an internist and also sees patients at PMC Isla Clinic. Dr. Cabrera comes highly-trained from the prestigious Yale-New Haven Hospital internal medicine residency program and the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Every one of these doctors speaks incredulously about the inefficient and ineffective human resource management procedures of the government of Guam. Public information officers, deputy directors and GMH administrative program coordinators are all hired surreptitiously at the speed of light. Meanwhile, doctors, nurses and teachers take an act of Congress to have their applications reviewed.
Rude personnel officers, unfriendly communications, lost or misplaced employment applications – these are the tools GovGuam is using to chase local-born medical professionals away. Even doctors who want to work for free at the Public Health clinics are told to take a number.
But now, too many local-grown medical professionals are coming home. They are not easily discouraged by the passive violence of entrenched GovGuam bureaucrats. The new physicians are aware of the challenges Guam faces, and when asked how they can help change this, Dr. Cabrera replied: “one patient at a time.”