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Last updateFri, 24 May 2019 12am







    Wednesday, May 22, 2019-6:38:17A.M.






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Risk of losing Medicare funds prompts call for action on Guam

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) —  Legislative Health Committee Chairman Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. has announced he will include a review of the recertification survey of Guam Memorial Hospital in the GMH oversight hearing that he has scheduled for Monday.

The senator, who is running for governor, also said he intends to include the survey results in the recently authorized Special Investigating Committee on GMH.

The Guam Daily Post reported exclusively on Thursday that the results of the survey threaten GMH with the loss of millions in Medicare reimbursement funding.

The survey was conducted in April by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS.

A June 5 letter to GMH Administrator PeterJohn Camacho, from CMS enforcement manager Paula Perse, warns that the hospital might be stripped of its Medicare provider agreement on Oct. 3 unless GMH corrects a number of serious violations cited in the survey.

If that happens, said Rodriguez, it will send “the island’s only public hospital into a financial death spiral.”

Rodriguez noted that GMH officials “have had the CMS report since the beginning of this month,” yet they “said nothing to the Committee on Health.”

If CMS terminates the hospital’s certification and if it’s up to him, Rodriguez said, “none of the hospital’s executive management team will have anything to do with GMH.”

Rodriguez said he would like to see hospital managers “under investigation by an inspector general for their hand in ruining GMH.”

News of the CMS survey results also prompted fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lou Leon Guerrero to call on Gov. Eddie Calvo to declare a state of emergency at the hospital “so that all available resources and measures can be taken by the government to resolve the health care crisis at GMH.”

In a release, Leon Guerrero stated the threat of CMS decertification sounds “yet another alarm bell” about the poor quality of health care at the hospital “due to deficiencies in GMH management and operations.”

In response, the governor sent a letter to Leon Guerrero saying the loss of accreditation is not inevitable.

He said CMS has asked GMH to address several concerns and the governor said he has been assured by GMH management that “they are working on these issues” and they believe they will resolve them to the satisfaction of CMS without losing accreditation.

Referring to the 2 percent sales tax due to take effect Oct. 1, and which Leon Guerrero opposes, the governor said, “We finally have a dedicated funding source that will help GMH begin to address many of the hospital’s issues.”

“If you do not feel that the sales tax is the appropriate avenue,” Calvo wrote, “then I am open to working with you on another solution.”

He warned that if the sales tax is repealed, and no other revenue source for the hospital is identified by October, “then I likely will have to declare a state of emergency.”

The governor’s letter also thanked Leon Guerrero for “acknowledging...the seriousness of the issues” facing GMH. “This is a point that several senators have forgotten in their frenzy of the election year for governor and Congress.”

Rodriguez on Thursday also agreed to expand the scope of his Special Investigative Committee’s probe of GMH to include the Chamorro Land Trust Commission and the Guam Police Department.

The inclusion of GPD and the CLTC came at the suggestion of Sen. Frank Aguon Jr.

Aguon, like Rodriguez and Leon Guerrero, is a contender for the Democratic nomination for governor.

The resolution authorizing the investigation was introduced by Rodriguez back in February, but it didn’t get the eight votes needed for passage until this week following Monday’s testimony by Dr. Kozue Shimabukuro, who alleged widespread mismanagement, waste and corruption at the hospital. Dr. Jerone Landstrom also described what he called “institutionalized systemic problems” at GMH. Their allegations were rebutted the next day by hospital management.

Adoption of the resolution on Thursday authorized Rodriguez, as health committee chairman, to appoint three Democrats and three Republicans to the panel and to name two co-chairs, one from each party.

Republican Sen. Mary Torres agreed to serve as the co-chair along with Rodriguez, even though she had voted against the resolution.

The other committee members are Democrat Sens. Joe San Agustin and Michael San Nicolas, and Republican Sen. Fernando Esteves. The sixth senator has not been named.

“I owe these senators a debt of gratitude for having the courage to take this on,” Rodriguez said in a statement issued Thursday night.

“This won’t be easy, and some people won’t be happy, but it must be done.”