By Johnnie Rosario
For at least the past fifteen years, questions have surfaced about deficiencies to GMH’s electrical system and the potential significant life threatening risks to patients resulting from these deficiencies. There appears to have been several people over the years that voiced their concerns only to be ignored, instructed not to provide details and even told not to testify at public hearings.
Because of the potential health and life safety issues that arise from this story, this article will be the first of a two part series supported by three separate studies that are of public record and the interview of a former staffer of the Calvo Administration and a current GMH employee, both agreeing to interviews with Kandit on the condition of anonymity and as media sources.
On April 8, 2020 the US Army Corps of Engineers issued a report titled “Facilities Condition Assessment Guam Memorial Hospital, Tamuning, Guam (see: https:www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files). This report was the result of a five day on-site inspection of GMH by architects and engineers from the US Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District, Huntsville Engineering Center Medical Facilities Center of Expertise and Standardization, US Army Corp of Engineers Wala Wala District Cost Estimation Branch and the US Army Corp of Engineers Japan District Structural Engineering Branch. This study outlines findings relative to a variety serious deficiencies including those to the electrical system, structure, mechanical system, fire protection system, communication / IT system and architecture.
This report describes a volatile aged and non-code compliant system that places risks to the health and safety of patients and GMH staff. Some of the findings include:
1. “Main Distribution Equipment in Poor Condition and Inadequate for Hospital.”
2. “The Main Switchboard ‘MS’ and much of the other electrical equipment in the Power Plant area are over 40 years old. The harsh tropical climate, combined with much leaking over the years, have taken a great toll on the components of all of the normal and emergency electrical equipment in many areas of the hospital. In the Power Plant area in numerous locations, old electrical no longer in use is still utilised for routing feeders to new equipment.”
3. Emergency Power System in Poor Condition and Not a Code-Compliant Essential Electrical System.”
4. The fundamental components of the Emergency Power System are beyond their reasonable lifespan. The Generator Switchboard ‘ES’ is over 40 years old.”
5. Much of the main distribution system for the hospital remains much the same as it was on day 1 forty years ago.
In contrast to a July 10, 2018 Guam Power Authority report, the US Army Corp of Engineers report recommended significant upgrades to the electrical system and further recommended that the upgrades be done immediately and prior to the building of a new hospital.
On the other hand, the 2018 GPA report which was used by senators to politicize the issue, states ”...the main (electrical panel) does not appear to be in danger of immediate failure, The inspection revealed no signs of deterioration.” GPA merely suggested to clean dust and tighten possible loose connections and stated the system could be repaired for $1,747. For years, certain GMH employees have voiced the immediate need to replace especially the electrical distribution system which is now supported by the US Army Corp of Engineers report. GMH has consistently estimated the cost of replacement at approximately $6,000,000.
“Towards the final two years of the Calvo Administration, Adelup and the Legislature knew of the serious problems with the hospital’s electrical system,” said a former Calvo Administration staffer who agreed to an interview with Kandit on the condition of anonymity. “I know for a fact that even Senator Therese Terlaje who has been healthcare chair knew of what would happen to patients if the system failed, she said. “Lilian also knew since she was a Trustee at the time.” “So many of us felt so sorry for former hospital planner William Kando who for years had worked tirelessly to get the funding to replace the system,” she added. “But Peter John (Camacho, former hospital administrator) just would not listen to William and worse, senators did not even allow William from giving his presentation during a public hearing.”
Former GMH Administrator Peter John Camacho at the time was focused on village meetings to gain support for the Calvo Administration’s $170,000,000 GMH modernisation plan just to improve one wing. The political battles between the legislature and the executive branch appeared to be focused on making each other look bad rather than do anything about replacing a system that placed lives at risk.
Senators used the GPA report to downplay the urgency of funding the replacement of an electrical system over 40 years old. A third report regarding the hospital’s electrical distribution system was also prepared by EMCE Consulting Engineers, a GMH contractor. EMCE had previously done its own inspection of the hospital’s electrical system and issued a report which described the hospital’s electrical distribution system as on the verge of a major disaster. The EMCE report is more consistent with the US Army Corp of Engineers report.
In a July 11, 2018 letter signed by EMCE Principal Engineer Vic Rejes, he writes that “given the current condition of GMH’s electrical system, they have been lucky that no major disasters have occurred, but dangers are imminent. The letter goes on to state that replacing GMH’s electrical system “will eliminate danger that can be life threatening to patients.”
“They all knew and did nothing about it,” added former Calvo Administration staffer. Its all right there. Just google it, she added.
“Bill was always so concerned he even talked about the mass evacuation of the hospital if the power went out and the distribution system failed but management ignored him and just kept him locked out,” said the former staffer.
“ Even if the power went out and the back-up generators came on, failure of the electrical distribution system would make it impossible for power to be distributed from the generators. The hospital would just not have power. Imagine what would happen to patients on ventilators after their batteries run out or imagine patients waking up during surgery since there is no longer power to administer anesthesia or the pharmacy not being able to adequately prepare IV medications. The radiology and laboratory department would be crippled,” she added.
“ This is a real crisis, a real emergency and politics got in the way of the lives of our people,” the former staffer said. “I just hope they fund replacing the system right away especially since the EMCE study is consistent with the US Army Corp of Engineers study and Senators can no longer use the GPA report to hide from the facts,” she concluded.