By David Lubofsky
Guam doctors have en masse stated that patient or health consumer's rights and protections, as defined by the malpractice reform Bill 112-36, will prevent them from doing specialty care that they now do. They stated that the specialty care that they do is because Guam lacks such specialist doctors. They, of course, did not mention the huge financial incentives they derive from these procedures.
The specialty care that they claim is a must and that they are doing would be considered malpractice, per testimony by Attorney Keogh, as they are not trained for that care or such procedures. We don't have specialist they correctly claim. They state or imply that keeping Arbitration, the MMMAA, and allowing no medical accountability for medical negligence is necessary to protect Guam doctors when they step over the line into the arena of malpractice to do these lucrative procedures. I am sure glad that they are running to the rescue of many Guam patients even though the procedures anywhere else would be malpractice, but is that the full story.
What we are not told, according to Dr. Shieh, as he stated in the Guam Post (June, 2017), Guam doesn't need doctors. It's amazing to hear that and contradictory from the usual message. Shieh said we need specialists. Guam doctors are filling the needs of many specialist by stepping outside of their area of expertise and training and committing what, as stated, can be defined as malpractice in doing so. They have created a catch 22 that greatly financially benefits them, but dumbs down medical care on the island by in effect competing with off island potential doctors. In essence, they are preventing trained qualified specialists’ doctors from setting up shop on island due to this competition, all the while doing advanced medical procedures without specialized training. This obviously is one important variable as to why Guam's medical standard of care is below that of the mainland.
With our limited population on Guam and untrained doctors doing specialty procedures claiming a "poor me martyr status" while protected by the discriminatory Arbitration Act, there is no room for real specialists to set up shop. We have to ask ourselves, do our doctor's want to really give up the extra income to others for these procedures, as that is really the crux of their extremely aggressive battle to keep the Arbitration Act or MMMAA.
The Arbitration Act not only allows doctors to be not accountable when they injure or kill us, but also has a direct negative impact on overall medical care on Guam. It keeps medical care at a substandard level compared to the rest of the country.
Doctors in their legislative testimony, etc. stated that Guam has lower standards of care in comparison to the states. This is relevant, as Guam's standards of care are impacted when doctors are allowed to do procedures they shouldn't be doing and keeping Guam closed by default to new specialist physicians interested in coming to the island.
Actually, it seems obvious that lower standards of medical care are directly related to Guam doctors stepping into the protected malpractice arena. They should be putting their conflicts of interest aside of making big bucks to do procedures they are not trained for and instead concentrate on recruiting specialists. Stop competing with potential doctors.
It's a darn catch 22. We need specialists, but Guam doctors fill the need of specialists with financial incentives to maintain the status quo. They then state that they need to be protected by the Arbitration Act for filling this need, while at the same time making it near impossible by way of competition for needed specialist to set up clinics. The Guam doctors who claim they are working outside of their specialty areas have prevented real specialists from working on Guam, not to mention having prevented negligent doctors from being identified. This single issue of medical overstep, coupled with leaving negligent doctors on the island to practice, with no attempt to mitigate it, in my opinion, is a primary factor for health care problems and failures on Guam and why many patients opt for off island care.
The Arbitration Act has consequences that go way beyond that of poor and middle-class people not having access to the legal system. It has impacted the very fundamental core of medical care on Guam that we all pay for. Even if you are not a victim of medical negligence, you are paying for it thru your taxes when someone has a serious injury. Doctors are
exempt pretty much from accountability, so services needed for the victims will come from, often times, local public or government programs such as visiting nurses, physical therapy etc. We pay for that through our taxes for the victims as doctors walk away from accountability waving the MMMAA flag.
David Lubofsky is a resident of Tamuning, and the Voice of Asher Dean Lubofsky.