Editor’s Note: The Kandit News Group has decided to delve into this developing story since it is not just a story about an old and deficient electrical distribution system at GMH, but is also about the great risks to patients and staff at GMH. This is truly a story that impacts the lives of patients, nurses, doctors and staff at GMH and the potential risk of loss of life or injury. It is our hope that by releasing this information to our community, the government will act swiftly to provide the funding necessary to prevent risk of injury or death at our only public hospital. As previously reported in the first series of this story, officials have known of these risks and problems for over ten years and did nothing about it.
In the first series on this story we provided documents to prove our findings including a 136 page US Army Corps of Engineers report dated April 8, 2020 titled “Facilities Condition Assessment Guam Memorial Hospital, Tamuning, Guam (see: http:www.doi.gov/gov/files). We also referenced an engineering firm’s report by a GMH contractor that concluded the risks as significant. However, we have since found another document that further proves that despite again prior notice, nothing was done. It appears this document is not public record but Kandit News Group was able to obtain it from our sources. This document is a “Department of the Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Supporting Elements Guam Outbrief / Trip Notes” dated November 21, 2019.
By Troy Torres
As part of her state of the island address last week, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero talked about plans to build a new hospital that she has said is estimated to cost about $700 million. This news is most welcomed since our people should have access to a modern hospital facility; especially considering all of the electrical, mechanical and structural deficiencies recently found by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Evidence clearly and unequivocally supports the position that dangers associated with the more than 40-year-old electrical distribution system was known by various public officials over the past 10 years yet nothing to date has been done to replace it. How will our government build a $700 million new hospital when for years it could not even secure and appropriate $6 million to replace the electrical distribution system at GMH?
As previously reported in the first series of this story, GMH’s William Kando for years has expressed his concerns about patient safety to GMH management under both the Calvo and Leon Guerrero administrations. Even the last legislature cut him off from testifying and making a power point presentation about the problem. Kando even went as far as talking about the risk of losing Medicare accreditation in the hopes that this position would result in some action. In August of 2018, Kando was quoted as saying that
…“it is a real concern with CMS and it was discussed at length with the federal agency during a conference call on July 20. They want to know what we are going to do with our electrical distribution panel”…”We do need to replace our panel.”
It is becoming more and more apparent that Kando has been sounding the alarms over this threat for a very long time and even went as far as preparing procurement documents for the replacement of the panels, which were submitted to the Attorney General’s Office. So we have to ask ourselves did the Office of the Attorney General know of the risks or were they just provided procurement documents for review and approval? Should the Office of the Attorney General conduct an investigation since clearly there has been serious negligence that has placed people’s lives at great risk?
Documents attained by Kandit reflect that even the GMH Board of Trustees and management knew of the serious problem associated with the panels under both the Calvo and Leon Guerrero Administration. Page 6 and the top of page 7 of the minutes of a July 24, 2019 GMH Board of Trustees meeting states in part:
“The Electrical Distribution Panel was a project that was unfunded, but categorized as having a high priority. The existing panel was estimated to be 45 years old which was well beyond its useful life of of 15 years. Senator Terlaje stated that she did not recall seeing a request for funding in the Hospital’s FY2020 Budget Request. She was informed that it was included and it was estimated to cost around $6M. It was noted that the design had been recertified.”
According to the minutes, also present at this meeting other than the Trustees were GMH Administrator Lilian Posadas, GMH Associate Administrator of Medical Services Dr. Annie Bordallo, GMH Assistant Associate Administrator of Medical Services Dr. Jolene Aguon and GMH Assistant Administrator of Nursing Services Jemmabeth Simbillo RN. Yet no action was taken by the board and not one of the management staff present discussed the immediate need to move forward in funding the replacement of the panels (see: https://gmha.org/wp-content/uploads/BOT_Meetngs/07-24-19.pdf).
Less than one hour after Kandit posted the first article in this series, we received a text from Senator Therese Terlaje which essentially stated she had introduced a Bill that became law which appropriated $10 million to GMH to address critical deficiencies posted by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The senator also made reference to her not being advised how these funds were spent despite her repeated letters to the governor. So where is this $10 million? What was it spent on? Why was it not used to replace the electrical distribution panels? We cannot simply turn a blind eye to these kind of questions especially since the same questions are being asked about the use of other funds. This is the people of Guam’s money and we cannot lose sight of that. Someone needs to be accountable for not just these funds, but also for allowing a dangerous condition to exist 24 / 7 at our only public hospital.
History Cannot Repeat Itself: In preparing this two-part series, Kandit considered a historical perspective of events that occurred at the old GMH when it was at Oka Point. It took the death of a patient by electrocution before public officials took action and moved forward to purchase the current GMH facility from the Archdiocese. Reliable information will support the fact that a patient while using the bathroom at the old GMH was electrocuted and died by an exposed electrical wire. Would the Calvo Administration have acted if patients died from the failure of the electrical distribution system during a power outage? Will it take the death of a patient at GMH from the failure of the electrical distribution system during a power outage before the Leon Guerrero Administration acts? We cannot allow history to repeat itself especially when so many had prior knowledge of this dangerous condition for years.
“Many people knew and were even told by engineers of the US Army Corp of Engineers in a briefing that took place the late part of November, 2019. It is impossible for them to deny they did not know since engineers from the Army Corp presented their initial findings to both management and then to the Governor herself. I am so very happy that the Governor initiated the Army Corp facilities review but at the same time, I have not seen any response from Adelup to get us a new system,” said a current GMH employee who spoke to Kandit as a source on the condition of anonymity. “Not a lot of people know this but the US Army Corp of Engineers issued a summary report before preparing its final report on their findings at GMH,” she added. She made reference to a Department of the Army U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Supporting Elements Guam Outbrief / Trip Notes dated November 21, 2019 we will now reference as “USACE Outbrief” for purposes of this article.
She pointed us to page 1 of the USACE Outbrief notes that makes reference to to the electrical distribution system under “Big Rocks” items which states “-Normal and Emergency Distribution Equipment in Poor Condition or Inadequate for Hospital Occupancy.” She also pointed us to pages 6 and 7 of the USACE Outbrief which is titled “Electrical Engineering: Significant Electrical Items of Concern.” Under this particular section, their findings are referenced in bullet points with some titled “Lack of an Essential Electrical System, Normal and Emergency Distribution Equipment in Poor Condition or Inadequate for Hospital Occupancy, Selective Coordination and Fire Protection Engineering.”
“I have been with the hospital for over 15 years and there are those of us that come to work every day worried for not just ourselves, but our patients if the system goes down,” she added. “Management was not only engaged with Army Corp engineers for weeks, but were presented all the findings and I know a similar presentation was made to the Governor as well. I just cannot understand for a second why after not just the years that have passed, but hearing such credible findings from a respected division of the US Army, that even as of today not even the procurement process has begun to just get rid of this dangerous condition,” she concluded.
Ask yourselves a simple common sense question that I hope provides you with more reasons to be very concerned about this serious issue. Just consider your home for a moment. How many of you have not had your circuit breakers replaced in over 40 years? Of course most of us or all of us have had our circuit breakers replaced way before they became 40 years old. So considering this point and the fact nothing has been done for over ten years, is something being hidden from the people of Guam? Kandit firmly believes that as stated earlier, this story is much more than about an electrical distribution system. It is also about honesty, integrity, transparency and a situation that any of us as members of our community would have acted on immediately.
It is our hope at Kandit News that this story will result in an emergency procurement to have the electrical panels replaced as soon as possible. The calling of an oversight hearing would not just be a waste of time but it would also be hypocritical. How hard would it be for the Governor, Lilian Posadas and Senator Terlaje to meet and discuss not only where the $10 million is, but also if it is still readily available to purchase a new system. The few hours it would take for the three of them to have a peaceful and cooperative meeting to finally bring this story to a close could very well result in saving a patient’s life.