BY JACKIE CAHILL
Journal staff

Patients who regularly undergo dialysis treatments can look forward to two new dialysis clinics on Guam, Dr. Saied Safabakhsh, nephrologist at Pacific Medical Group Inc. and medical director for the Guam U.S. Renal Care Dialysis Centers, told the Journal. The new clinics will be in East Agana and Mangilao and will have up-to-date, state of the art designs to better serve the community, he said. American Construction has been contracted to complete both clinics.

Safabaksh

“The idea of dialysis units today is this is the second home for patients, and it has to be a home for patients that they love to come to,” Safabakhsh said. “It is thought to be as if they are going to the spa three times a week. It is thought to be that they are going to cleansing, not as a sick patient.”

The clinics will have a theme of rejuvenation and renewal, similar to The Village clinics in Sinajana and Finegayan. “It would be a picture of bamboo, which is the symbol of resistance and green, and that we are not going to bow down to any illnesses,” Safabakhsh said.

The clinics will also be automous units. “They have everything from generators to water systems to [be a] self-sustaining system. When the hospitals are closed, we are open, and it has been the case. When the typhoons happen, we’ve always been the last ones to close and the first ones to open.”      

Construction is already underway for the East Agana location, which was previously Shen’s Furniture. The new clinic will replace the Tamuning location. “We are basically updating that building,” Behnam Ghafghazi, owner of American Construction, told the Journal. “We are upgrading the utility lines, water line, sewer line, electrical lines, and we are going to update, remove and replace exterior doors and windows.” American Construction will also paint and add some external features to the building for improved aesthetics.

The 22,000-square-foot building will house a hemodialysis clinic on the first floor and a peritoneal, or home dialysis, clinic on the second floor, Safabakhsh said. American Construction’s contract with Safabakhsh is about $3 million for the interior and exterior work, Ghafghazi said.

“Once it is completed, the interior will be built to dialysis interior needs,” Ghafghazi said.

The new dialysis clinic is East Agana will house a hemodialysis clinic on the first floor and a peritoneal,
or home dialysis, clinic on the second floor.

Photo courtesy of Behnam Ghafghazi

Ghafghazi said he will have a separate contract with U.S. Renal Care to fit the dialysis clinic with 21 chairs, cabinets and other work that is standard for a dialysis clinic. 

Ghafghazi said they will also be demolishing the old funeral home on site and have a grading permit for the cliff behind the building to create more parking. “We are hoping to have at least 50 parking spots. Hopefully more,” he said.

Ghafghazi said the building is scheduled to be completed by March 2020. However, there may be delays if any artifacts or remains are found. “That location is in an area that has been settled by people in the past, so they want to make sure that when we dig a hole somewhere that it is clear, and if it is not clear we have a plan through our archeologist to address that issue, whatever it is,” he said. 

The East Agana location will be the second dialysis clinic with a home dialysis unit on Guam, Safabakhsh said. The other home dialysis unit is in the Finegayan clinic, but it is not yet open because the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services still needs to survey and approve the location. “Finegayan should be surveyed this year,” he said. 

The home dialysis clinic will give more privacy to home dialysis patients. “We had peritoneal dialysis for the past 20 years here, in fact in Tamuning, but they never had a home, they never had a space of their own,” Safabakhsh said.

Construction will begin for the Mangilao clinic when all the proper permits have been obtained. “We are just waiting for a zone change to go through,” Ghafghazi said. “As soon as the zoning has changed to what we need, which is a commercial zone, it has to be, then we can go ahead and apply for a building permit.” Safabakhsh said he expects to have the zone change permit in a month. 

The Mangilao location will be 9,000 square feet with 25 chairs for hemodialysis and around 35 parking spots, Ghafghazi said. American Construction will build the entire facility. While exact costs were not disclosed, Safabakhsh said typically a building for a standard dialysis clinic costs around $4 million to $5 million with an additional cost of about $2 million to fit the dialysis unit. Ghafghazi said he anticipates the Mangilao location will be done in December 2020.

Safabakhsh told the Journal when he first came to Guam 24 years ago, Guam’s dialysis center was ranked the worst in the country by CMS. “Back then, we were number 5,000 out of 5,000 dialysis units. That is from clinical standards. That is bad,” he said. “Today we are top in the nation, top 10% in the nation. … Within the U.S. Renal Care system, which has a few hundred dialysis units in the nation, we are number one.”     

The two new clinics are a continuation of improvements to renal care on Guam. “It’s being up to par, being up to standard and better. That has been the idea,” Safabakhsh said.      

Currently there are dialysis clinics in Sinajana, Tamuning, Harmon, Finegayan and the Micronesia Mall, Safabakhsh said. “Here, every single unit that we have is [operating at] 140%,” he said. Most dialysis patients on Guam need treatment because of diabetes. “In the U.S., 40% of dialysis patients are diabetic; in Guam, 87%.”  

In order to better serve the community, Safabakhsh said he anticipates building another clinic in the South in the near future. He offered $5.6 million for the Accion Hotel in Yona as a possible location, but the deal did not go through. mbj