As businesses, we know the importance of budgeting. We plan our finances early on — looking at income, spending, staffing, technology, etc. to create a detailed budget that will allow our business to cover expenses and remain open throughout the following year, at the very least. This budgeting is even more important in the case when we need to borrow a bit to make ends meet — as with borrowing, we understand the importance of being held accountable for someone else’s funds. It’s a matter of respect.

So why is that so hard for the Government of Guam to do for Guam Memorial Hospital?

Recent proposed legislation under Bill 141-34 wants to borrow $125 million on the bond market to finance the renovation and/or new construction of certain GMH facilities and related matters and under Bill 142-34 proposes an increase the Business Privilege Tax from 4% to 4.75% percent to pay for ongoing operations.

Arguments over the legislation have begun to get personal — hearses representing deaths, blame shed on our leaders for “being too wealthy to care about our people”. But we’re looking at this the wrong way. We must look at GMH as a business. 

In a memorandum for a 2014 audit of GMH by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Inspector General, Deputy Inspector General Mary L. Kendall reported that “cash flow is negative, and its reimbursement rates and fee schedules are out of date.” The audit findings showed that GMH “does not maximize opportunities to generate revenues.” DIO offered eight recommendations to help improve GMH’s fiscal affairs and the medical services they provide, given directly to the governor. “These initiatives, combined with GMHA’s other clinical and fiscal initiatives, should guarantee the quality, safety and scope of medical services available at GMHA,” the letter stated.

Here we are three years later. If GMH was handed the means to pull themselves out of their slump three years ago and still cannot maximize the funds that they continuously receive, what makes us think borrowing and providing GMH the money now will be any different?

“Quick to borrow is always slow to pay,” the proverb goes. These bills are not the solution. Before any action is taken, the government needs to reflect and develop a plan as to how it aims to manage the affairs of the hospital for GMH to at some point stand on its own — without taking money from the pockets of the people and businesses of Guam. mbj