By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) Guam Regional Medical City no longer is providing critical medical services it once represented to the public that it would provide as a condition of its qualifying certificate.
On December 18, 2014, GRMC accepted the terms of its QC, which included a table of inpatient and outpatient services the hospital would provide to the people of Guam. The government of Guam agreed to the QC, which relieves the hospital of millions of dollars annually in taxes, because of the benefits these medical services would provide to residents. The financial analysis assumed GRMC's provision of these services would take the pressure off Guam Memorial Hospital, which constantly struggles to pay its bills due to the high rate of hospitalization.
Among the most expensive inpatient services for these hospitals has been pediatrics, obstetrics, and neonatal intensive care. GRMC stopped providing these services last year.
GRMC is a defendant in a civil suit in Superior Court filed by the parents of the late Baby Faith Taitague for medical malpractice and violation of due process rights. Baby Faith died while under GRMC's care due to a hospital-born infection. GRMC shut down its medical care for infants shortly after the tragedy.
GRMC's non-compliance has not been raised by the Guam Economic Development Authority board of directors, which issued the QC and has jurisdiction over its compliance. GEDA officials are looking into our request for comment into the matter.
Non-compliance jeopardizes the QC, which is a contract between the company and the government of Guam. The government has an obligation to the taxpayers to revoke QCs that are out of compliance.
At stake are millions of dollars in income and property taxes the government allows GRMC to not pay. The GRMC QC provides a 75 percent abatement of income taxes; and a 100 percent abatement of property taxes.
The legislature also has provided 100 percent relief to GRMC on the island's business privilege tax, which former Sen. Dennis Rodriguez tried to change last year in order to provide GMH and the General Fund some much-needed funding.
Meanwhile, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has not moved forward any plans to renovate GMH's maternity ward, a program last held up by the bank her family owns and while she was the president of that bank.
The governor's hesitation to improve GMH and its financial situation was exacerbated by her approval of legislation by Speaker Tina Muna Barnes at the beginning of the year. Public Law 35-2 was special interest legislation that required insurance companies bidding on the government's annual health insurance contract to have an existing provider agreement with GRMC. One of the government's normal providers of health insurance, TakeCare, protested the procurement and took the new law to court. TakeCare was cut out of the procurement as a consequence of the law, as GRMC refused to sign a provider agreement with TakeCare unless TakeCare opened its entire subscriber network up to GRMC.
Kandit previously reported that this arrangement is in violation of the island's anti-trust laws. We also filed a criminal complaint with the Attorney General's Office about the matter. The AGO has not updated its progress, if any, regarding this matter.
The financial result of the new law is that the government of Guam this year will be paying about $20 million more than anticipated to fund the new health insurance contract, keeping even more money away from GMH while GRMC benefits from the fruits of this law.
GRMC's chief financial officer, Francis Santos, was the co-chairman of Ms. Leon Guerrero's election campaign in 2018.
With GRMC teetering on QC compliance issues for the entirety of this year, one positive thing is certain to happen as a result: Dr. Thomas Shieh, a consistent and vocal critic of the special benefits GRMC has received, will deliver the first American citizen of 2020 on the second floor of Guam Memorial Hospital.