BY STEVE GRAFF
Journal Staff

Roof leak and air conditioning remediation was performed in the lobby area of Guam Memorial Hospital on Aug. 12. All 64 of GMH’s air handling units need to be replaced.

Photo by Maureen N. Maratita

While Guam Memorial Hospital awaits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspection report that may decide its future, hospital administrators continue to address the longstanding deficiencies to keep the building operational — and cool.

The air handling units from GMH’s HVAC system, all 64 of them, are dated and in need of replacing, Lillian P. Posadas, administrator at GMH, told the Journal.

$3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Interior, allocated through the governor’s office, will be used to help cover the costs to replace them, Posadas said. So far, two units, at the cost of $90,000 each, have been replaced since October. 

“They are still working; they are just not always as cold as we want then to be,” she said. “They’re on their last legs.”

The unit that cools the morgue was among the latest to malfunction. It’s not clear how long the unit was underperforming but given the quarterly maintenance checks and no reports to administrators, Posadas said she doesn’t believe it went on for an extended period.

The unit was reported to be fixed on Nov. 29 by GMH.

“The temperature was not right,” Posadas said. “A part was cracked and repaired, and the filter needed to be cleaned.”

There are currently 12 refrigeration cubicles for the deceased in GMH’s morgue, which are on a separate chiller that is functioning properly, Posadas said. The cubicles were not affected, she said.

The air conditioning at a separate morgue at the Guam Office of the Medical Examiner’s Office is functioning, Posadas said.

Roof leaks, some associated with the air units, along with a host of other longstanding issues at the hospital, were reported in a Aug. 19 article in the Journal (See “A spoonful of sugar: GMH patches and makes do while it waits”). Leak and air conditioning remediation was being performed in the lobby area of the hospital as early as August, according to Journal files.

GMH’s electronic health record systems also needs upgrading, as does the electrical panel, Posadas said in August. Staffing and bed shortages continue, as well, in the face of increased demand for service, as the number of patients continues to grow.

A 2017 Guam Memorial Hospital Authority Business Sustainability Plan, which proposed bond borrowing for funding, proposed $125 million worth of capital improvements for the hospital, including $5 million to fix the roof systems.

GMH has been limited in its improvement projects over the last two and half decades, the report states. “Because challenging circumstances facing GMH finances, hospital administrations have only been able to spend $46.6 million in capital improvements since 1991,” according to the report.

 Of those funds, $245,000 was used to remove and replace the hospital cooling towers in 2016.

As in previous years, the Guam Legislature approved $28 million for operations in 2020, according to Journal files.

The Army Corps of Engineers report is expected in spring 2020.

Whatever the determination is, Posadas said in the Aug 17. article in the Journal, “We’ll move forward. If the Army Corps of Engineers finds that this hospital is not stable and strong for expansion and modernization … and we need to build a new hospital, then yes, we need to proceed with it.” mbj