Guam Memorial Hospital now has 16 more critical care nurses on staff after they arrived from off island this week to help with the hospital’s seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
The team includes seven hemodialysis nurses, nine telemetry nurses and five emergency room nurses, said GMH Administrator Lillian Perez-Posadas.
“They started yesterday with the onboarding process and orientation,” she said Tuesday. “So we can get them boots on the ground in the COVID care unit, if not today then already tomorrow they are on the schedule.”
The nurses were hired through the recruiting firm NuWest and will work at the hospital for 13 weeks, said Perez-Posadas.
“We need their help. Some of the nurses are exhausted, plus some of them have contracted COVID so they have had to be out,” she said. “These are the additional resources we requested … because of this COVID situation that we are in.”
A total of 28 registered nurses have contracted COVID-19, the majority of whom are back at work after recovering and being cleared for the virus, said Perez-Posadas.
Currently, 39 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized at GMH, she said. Fifteen are in the ICU and need to be closely monitored, and nine are on ventilators.
The patients’ status can change very quickly, she said.
“And it has. These individuals may be stable, they may be ‘Hi’ to you, and the next few minutes they can crash,” Perez-Posadas said. “This COVID virus can really knock out your system, particularly your respiratory system.”
Expecting another surge
She said more nurses could possibly be needed.
“Hopefully not, but again it depends if we continue to have individuals in the community who test positive.”
The expectation is that 20% of those who test positive may end up needing to be hospitalized, said Perez-Posadas.
“We are expecting and planning that we will have another surge of patients who need hospital care,” she said.
The nurses are to be paid through their agency, Perez-Posadas said. GMH will pay a cap of $145 hourly per nurse to NuWest.
“It could be lower than that, and how much (the agency) pays the nurse, that is between them,” she said.
“Initially we are using our operations funding, but we will apply for FEMA assistance so 75% is what we can get from FEMA and for the 25% we will use the CARES funds,” she said.
Skilled Nursing Unit
Perez-Posadas said the increase in nursing staff will make it possible to open the Skilled Nursing Unit in Barrigada for treatment of noncritical COVID-19 patients.
“We continue to push for that facility to be open and have some patients to occupy the facility. Now that we have the influx of resources, I think we can now concentrate on occupying that facility with low-level COVID patients that need continuing care. That is the plan, “she said. “We are looking to occupy that soon.”