Guam hospital faces loss of accreditation

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The Joint Commission has informed officials at the Guam Memorial Hospital of its preliminary decision to deny the island’s only public hospital continued accreditation.

GMH Administrator PeterJohn Camacho said the hospital was informed by the joint commission of the preliminary denial of accreditation during an exit interview following a two-day Joint Commission survey on Jan. 4 and 5.

Camacho made the announcement during a news conference Monday afternoon, outside the closed and crumbling “Z” wing of the hospital.

“There is an appeals process that we likely will go through,” said Camacho. However, he said GMH must inform the joint commission by the end of this week of the hospital’s intent to appeal.

Once filed, the appeal process takes about three months, said Camacho. In its appeal, GMH will have to submit a corrective-action plan that convinces the joint commission to allow GMH to keep its accreditation. Failing that, GMH will lose its accredited status by May.

Among the issues cited by the joint commission surveyors, Camacho said, “were repeat findings” which, combined with GMH’s past experience, “has shown (the joint commission) that we face very many significant challenges.”

Specifically, Camacho said the joint commission cited GMH for not having enough staff, and he said there were cases in which various required health-care processes “were not done,” and “appropriate assessments were not carried out.” Among the repeat violations cited were stained ceiling tiles which could lead to infections, said Camacho.

Camacho highlighted the staffing issue. “Not having adequate staffing to do the things that are required has an impact,” said Camacho, adding that “our salary schedule is not competitive, so it is difficult for us to recruit and retain staff.”

GMH officials emphasized that even if GMH loses its joint commission accreditation, it will still be certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. GMH will not lose its eligibility for Medicare reimbursements, he said.

“Medicare funding is dependent on CMS certification,” said Camacho, “and that’s separate from the joint commission” accreditation.

GMH, like most hospitals, depends heavily on the federal reimbursements it receives from CMS.

However, Camacho acknowledged that CMS will get wind of any joint commission decision on accreditation and “they may come out on their own to take a look how we’re doing.”

He added, “For many years the hospital has not been funded adequately, and that is the primary reason for many of the challenges we face.”

This has resulted in operating losses of about $30 million a year on average, Camacho said.

GMH Medical Director Dr. Vince Duenas said “the root cause is the underfunded mandate that has been given to GMH to treat all patients…whether they can pay or not.”

Duenas called on lawmakers to “have the moral conviction to make decisions to allow GMH life — and hope — by giving GMH…a dedicated funding source so that we can do our job here at the hospital.”

He urged the Legislature: “You’ve got to step up to the plate and help us.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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