By David Lubofsky
Accountability has been a common theme lately on Guam, in the news, with discussions about the Medical Malpractice Forced Arbitration Act. This is particularly concerning with some of the questionable practices at The Guam Board of Medical Examiners and The Guam Board of Allied Health Examiners.
In the last public hearing, November 7, 2019, regarding the Forced Arbitration Act, Senator Terlaje told Dr. Yasuhiro that his testimony was a breath of fresh air. I have to agree. Rather than focusing on the Arbitration Act pros and cons, he discussed the governing boards. This would include the Guam Board of Medical Examiners and the Guam Board of Allied Health Examiners, among others, in how they handle complaints by consumers, the public, against professionals, whether it be doctors, physician assistants or others.
The need for impartial reviews of complaints was stressed by Dr. Yasuhiro and Senator Terlaje which would offset many of the problems that we see with arbitration-related medical negligence issues or professional complaints. Consumers have a right to have their complaints heard by the Allied Board or the Guam Board of Medical Examiners, as an example, without the current bias or prejudice.
Sadly, I guess the Board of Allied Health Examiners did not get the “impartiality” message following the status quo. It’s hard to believe that the Guam Board of Allied Health Examiner’s Chair, Ms. Mamie Balajadia has been on the Allied Board for over 20 years, as has possibly up to five other board members. This is possibly the longest-serving chairman and group of board members of any board on Guam or anywhere, outside of an autocratic country.
They are supposed to be reappointed as mandated by law every three years, but that hasn’t happened. No Guam board should have the same members that long, it negates new ideas, new members, motivation etc. It destines a Board to the humdrum, apathetic and inherent biases to maintain the status quo and their fiefdom, not to mention easily leads to corruption.
What also worries me is that just recently, the Board of Allied Health Examiners went to the legislature to establish ethics guidelines for the Guam Board’s licensed professionals to get them approved in law. Ethics for professionals who are already practicing is better late than never, but they should have been established years ago. This should have been a top priority for the board, not to mention the board members who have been there for 20-plus years. What have they been doing? Ethical standards are the top priority for any governing licensing board. How can you protect the community and hold people to professional standards, when you never established such standards for 20 years until now? Who is holding the Guam Board of Allied Health Examiners accountable? I am sure that if you contact similar boards across the country, all will tell you that they have had established ethical standards in place for years.
This is one reason that board members need to be reappointed every three years, to keep people motivated and current in law and actions which are aimed to protect the community and to hold members accountable. New members, new blood, new ideas, new graduates, fresh energy, honesty, etc. are all needed on any board. With this, is the need to establish a real impartial review system for complaints of professionals that the board licenses. Yet, still as everything else at the Allied Board, the impartial review system has not been set up. It’s at the same place as it was 20 years ago when these board members joined the Allied Board. Reviews of citizens complaints with the Allied Board, if they ever get around to do them, are not impartial, quite the opposite, they are biased, from our experience. Many complaints have been sitting there for years, but that’s expected as these members of the Allied Board must see themselves as protected.
This is exactly what Dr. Yasuhiro emphasized in his testimony and Senator Terlaje discussed: the need for fair impartial boards that we do not have. Hey, Guam Board of Allied Health Examiners members, this isn’t 20 years ago and how things were done back then. It’s time for you to move on or act to protect the community, not your personal interests or friends. It’s time for the Guam Board of Allied Health Examiners to be under that same law as other boards with members having to be reappointed every three years.