Guam faces a maternity healthcare crisis as the island’s OB-GYN shortage continues and facilities remain in an ongoing state of disrepair.
“I will tell you if you got pregnant, you’re in trouble because no one is going to see you.” Dr. Hoa Nguyen told the Guam Daily Post about the lack of OB-GYNs. For an island with a population of 168,000, there are a total of only 7 working OB-GYNs—most of whom are pushing retirement age—with only 3 of them working full-time. He explained that the shortage might leave patients needing to fly off-island just to give birth, an option that is unfeasible for many women.
The crisis extends to the island’s maintenance of labor and delivery facilities OB-GYNs work. Guam Memorial Hospital’s maternity ward currently uses a 40-year-old layout, in which the mother must move through multiple rooms during the progression of labor.
“I have been saying we need to renovate the GMH labor rooms, and nursery, if we want to recruit good OB-GYNs.” Dr. Thomas Shieh, one of Guam’s OB-GYNs, explained to the Guam Daily Post. To raise awareness of the condition of the labor and delivery facilities, Dr. Shieh posted videos depicting the maintenance issues within the ward. The videos show leaking ceilings, broken delivery room toilets, only one working air conditioner, and ceiling tiles in disrepair in the GMH maternity ward.
Guam’s doctors are reaching out to local news outlets about the topic, calling for an increase in OB-GYNs and a refurbishing of the GMH maternity ward. According to Dr. Vincent Akimoto, some of the island’s OB-GYNs plan to relocate their patients to Guam Regional Medical Center, a newer hospital in a more developed state than GMH.
“… but (GMH) labor room to them was unacceptable. It’s inhumane to have pregnant moms in labor move four times just to deliver their babies. This renovation should have been done four years ago,” Dr. Thomas Shieh explained to the Guam Daily Post.
However, this call for refurbishing is not a recent occurrence. In September 2015, a project was set for renovating the labor and delivery ward, yet it has remained at the $1 million design stage for several years. The project has not seen much progress with factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and cost issues.
The conversation about GMH’s maternity ward condition is circulating throughout the 2022 election. To combat this issue, new plans have arisen from this year’s politicians, two of which are Governor Lou Leon Guerrero’s $300 million hospital complex and Delegate Michael San Nicolas’s renovation of Guam Memorial Hospital.
The future of the island’s maternity crisis remains a heated debate as healthcare issues continue to impact Guam.