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Guam Memorial Hospital has received additional help through the Department of Defense with additional staffing including nurses, respiratory therapists and doctors, GMH Administrator Lillian Posadas said.

GMH will have an additional 15 critical care nurses, three respiratory therapists, three doctors and one certified registered nurse anesthetist, Posadas said.

The additional staff will go a long way to helping GMH manage its COVID-19 patient population as it continues to grow, she said.

“They’re helping us out tremendously,” she said.

The medical staff has been sent on a 30-day mission to GMH to help the island’s public hospital, Posadas said.

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As of Wednesday, there were 53 COVID-19 patients at GMH, with 13 are in the intensive care and 11 of them on ventilators, she said.

People continue to come into the emergency room with COVID-19 positive test results and, depending on their condition, they’re either admitted or discharged, she said.

The public hospital is nearing capacity for COVID-19 patients and is trying to get even more medical staff to help, Posadas said.

“We’re utilizing whatever staff we have and whatever staff is willing to work. They also have their days off. It’s a challenge, but we’re managing,” she said.

Emergency licenses

Guam Memorial Hospital security officers pre-screen patients and employees during Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, at their post in Tamuning, Sept. 6, 2020. (Photo: Frank San Nicolas/PDN)

The Health Professional Licensing Office has issued 17 emergency temporary licenses to health care professionals, Zennia Pecina, administrator of the office said — 15 registered nurses with critical care backgrounds, a physician and a respiratory therapist, as of Wednesday.

Posadas said a long-term plan is being worked to bring registered nurses to GMH through a contract with a third-party nurse registry. The company hires nurses for wherever they are needed, she explained. Nurses can be hired through the registry to travel to Guam and work and can work for however long they can be assigned to Guam, she said.

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GMH is requesting 20 critical care nurses, eight hemodialysis nurses and 10 telemetry nurses, Posadas said, however, the company said it can identify 100 nurses for the island. Posadas said they are requesting what is needed to staff the hospital. 

“Those are the specialties we need, especially for the COVID patients,” she said.

The contract is still being worked on, but GMH expects to have additional nursing support in the near future.

GMH currently has a capacity of 58 beds for COVID-19 patients and the hospital is working to open up another 20 beds for COVID-19 patients needing hemodialysis, Posadas said.

Staffing issues

Posadas said the hospital is concerned about the number of COVID-19 patients at GMH and is communicating with the military to see if they can provide more staff.

Meanwhile, GMH is training Guam Department of Education nurses to provide assistance to the hospital. 

GMH has also had additional medics to help in the COVID care area.

“We’re trying to do whatever we can to get more resources,” Posadas said.

The Guam National Guard in a release announced six combat medics were at GMH to perform tasks such as vital sign monitoring and recording so GMH staff can focus on critical care.

Improve health

Posadas asks residents who are sick to not wait until they are really sick to seek help. 

“Do what you can do to prevent your condition from getting worse,” she said.

Many people with COVID-19 have recovered and people need to focus on improving their health including not smoking, she said.

Because GMH has many COVID-19 patients who need critical care the opening of the isolation facility at the Skilled Nursing Facility in Barrigada remains pending.

“We’re challenged with staffing issues plus the patients who are coming in to our facility here in Tamuning are more acutely and more critically sick,” Posadas said. 

The isolation facility in Barrigada is meant for COVID-19 patients who don’t need a high level of medical care, she said.

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