Let the planning begin, first steps discussed at Guam hospital presentation

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers covered a wide range of questions during an Aug. 17 presentation on planning for a new hospital. The virtual meeting was hosted by Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Guam’s delegate to Congress, who had met with USACE in Honolulu. 

The USACE team at the presentation were District Commander Lt. Col. Eric Marshall, Civil and Public Works Chief Rhiannon Kucharski, and Interagency and International Services and Medical Program Manager Donald Schlack.

Marshall told an audience of members of the 36th Guam Legislature, the Guam Chamber of Commerce, the Guam Economic Development Authority, Guam Memorial Hospital and representatives of media organizations that one thing the USACE does well is planning. Plus, he said, “As an unbiased arbiter, we tend to have that credibility.”

Gov. Lourdes A.  Leon Guerrero (and her task force) met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Guam Memorial Hospital Aug. 16, “picking up from discussions they had during their meeting in Hawaii on Aug. 3,” according to a release the same day.

Marshall said what he had heard “sounds a really good plan so far.” However, he said, “We can bring added rigor from a technical perspective – even medical expertise.”

If the hospital planned for Mangilao were built to replace the current hospital – the same square footage – it would cost $65 million, but less on a new site where infrastructure could happen a lot faster and cheaper, according to the presentation.

USACE is suggesting a form of planning for which it uses the term charrette (a formal group for a planning and in this case, a design exercise). From planning to groundbreaking could take five years. Issues the group would consider would resiliency and redundancy, such as a backup for utilities, as well as difficulties to be encountered.

He also told the Journal that USACE would look wholistically at planning and needs.

Planning would include data gathering to include population growth resulting from an increase in the military population as well as Compact residents, plus enhanced corrosion control, and the potential of high wind and seismic resistance. The charrette would also look at building phases, and the benefit of a veteran facility at the hospital or in a medical campus.

“The charrette is really the blueprint for the architectural engineering firm that is going to do the plan,” Marshall said. Schlack said a charrette was used to plan Naval Hospital Guam.

Kurcharski said, “You would need to provide 15% or at least 15% needs to be federal funds” for USACE to be involved in planning. Or the whole cost – estimated at $3 million – could be funded by the Office of Insular Affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior. San Nicolas said he has talked to the OIA. The cost of planning bore a relation to the estimated cost of $700 million for the hospital, USACE told Sen. Therese M. Terlaje.

Management was important throughout the process, Marshall said.

Shlack told the Journal there were pros and cons to any idea of design/build/maintain in the case of a hospital, which could give “an incentive to build to a higher standard.”

The release from the Office of the Governor said, “In the coming days, Gov. Leon Guerrero will formally submit a letter of engagement to USACE to assist with planning and oversight assistance … .”

San Nicolas and the USACE group were also going to tour areas of Guam affected by flooding after the presentation.

See A spoonful of sugar: GMH patches and makes do while it waits, in the Aug. 19, 2019 issue of the Journal and Aircon problems continue to plague Guam Memorial Hospital in the Dec. 9, 2019 issue of the Journal.


Tourism updates

Palau: The Taiwan-Palau travel bubble resumed Aug. 14, with 148 travelers on the first of five flights in August – flying on China Airlines from Taoyuan International Airport to Koror for COVID vaccinations, with 2,000 doses available. Travelers may choose Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines and are also given $50 incentive cards. On return to Taiwan, residents will isolate, and take a PCR test on Day 5, and then further isolate until Day 14.

Initially, flights launched on April 1, but ceased weeks later with a rise in positive COVID cases in Taiwan.

As of end June, the Palau Visitors Authority reported 614 visitors, a drop of 96.7% compared to 2020.

Northern Mariana Islands: Weekly flights on the Saipan-Incheon route from Korea by Jeju Air (from June 8), Asiana Airlines Inc. (from July 24) and T’Way Air Co. (from July 29) from Korea. Visitors are quarantined for five days at Pacific Islands Club Saipan before testing, and then may transfer to Kensington Hotel Saipan and Saipan World Resort.

As of Aug. 16, 63 companies in Saipan, Tinian and Rota have met the safety standards of the World Travel & Tourism Council and are certified in the NMI’s SafeTravels progam. Certified businesses are eligible for the NMI Tourism Resumption Investment Plan Travel Bucks program, which provides qualified visitors with up to $500 in Travel Bucks per island (Saipan, Tinian, and Rota) to be spent only at SafeTravels-certified companies (where 100% of the employees are vaccinated.)

Guam: T’way resumed Saturday weekly flights from July 31. KAL returned to the Guam market with a weekly flight from Aug. 5. Jin Air flies twice weekly on the Guam route.

Air Seoul has submitted its schedule for twice-weekly flights from Aug. 26 and Air Busan has indicated an intended start in September, according to the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam.

Philippine Airlines flies on the Guam-Manila route twice a week – except will not do so on Aug. 20 and Aug. 27.

According to Journal files, in August United Airlines is flying between Guam and Narita 10 times a week; Honolulu daily; on the Guam-Saipan route three times a week; Palau twice monthly; Yap flights once a month; the island hopper to Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Kwajalein and Majuro once a month; and to Chuuk and Pohnpei once a month.

The Guam Visitors Bureau discussed revised visitor expectations at its Aug. 12 board meeting, projecting 50,000 arrivals for fiscal 2021, compared to an earlier projection of 80,000.


COVID updates

Five individuals were confirmed positive for COVID-19 by travel screening on arrival in Saipan on Aug. 13 and Aug. 14.

Since March 2020 and as of Aug. 14, the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. reported 116 positives from the U.S. mainland, 43 from “a U.S. territory” and 23 from international locations

In Guam, 107 new cases of COVID-19 were identified out of 1,926 tests performed August 13 to Aug 15, with 51 cases identified through contact tracing, according to the Joint Information Center. Seven Guam Department of Education students tested positive at six schools – a combination of elementary and middle schools.


And also:

The U.S Office of Personnel Management has renewed its Federal Employee Health Benefit program with TakeCare Insurance Co. Inc.  for 2022.

Open Season for the 2022 benefit year will be from Nov. 8 through Dec. 13, according to an Aug. 16 release from the company.

The annual United Airlines Guam Marathon has been cancelled for 2021 and 2022. mbj