17 Dec 2013

New Guam hospital expected to ease burden on health services

7:04 pm on 17 December 2013

A new private hospital being established on Guam is expected to ease a burden on the territory's health services caused by a lack of doctors, nurses and beds.

Health care statistics on Guam show there is a growing demand for hospital services by the ageing population, which is forecast to make up the majority of the Guam Regional Medical City's patients.

A spokesperson for the hospital, Carlos Pangelinan says thousands of people seek medical care off island each year.

He told Beverley Tse the new hospital means fewer people will have to travel for treatment.

CARLOS PANGELINAN: We do have a significant number of retirees residing in the States because of the fact that the services here are not available for them so when the new hospital opens we anticipate a lot of them to be coming back.

BEVERLEY TSE: And how confident are you the hospital will be able to cope with what is expected to be a larger number of elderly people?

CP: There will be significant improvements. I think there'll be a larger number of specialist physicians here, we particularly have a problem with longer-term care needs. A lot of the specialists that do come here they usually are here temporarily. We think that we are going to be able to bring a lot of them here and keep them here longer so that it would make more sense for older people to live more comfortably and get the care they need.

BT: So is there a shortage of staff to care for elderly people?

CP: There's a shortage for everyone. The US Navy also maintains a 43-bed hospital. Our new hospital opening we have about 130 and we also think that we can probably accommodate another 50 later on in the future but yes there's definitely a shortage both in beds and both as well in physicians and nurses.

BT: Is that putting a significant burden on the current hospital and is it likely to pose some problems for the new hospital when it opens?

CP: We think it should ease the burden I would suspect, if you looked at the statistics on Guam we have about 9,000 physicians for every 10,000 people. The US on average has about four times that so anything to add or increase the pool of physicians as well as nurses as well as beds I think would make things better, would be a lot more advantageous to the population here.

BT: What is the current situation like with the existing bed shortage and staff shortage?

CP: Well it just basically means that at the end of the day a lot of people just have to leave off island if they need certain care that's not available on island.

BT: Will this new hospital be the answer to the shortage in beds and practitioners?

CP: It will not be the solution to all of the Island's problems with respect to health care but it would certainly be a significant improvement and I think that's what's important at this point and I think that's what most people here are looking towards.

Carlos Pangelinan says the 200 million US dollar hospital is expected to be ready by August or September.