Financially strapped Guam hospital gets new chief

Financially strapped Guam hospital gets new chief

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HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Theodore "Ted" Lewis said he's no stranger to managing struggling stateside hospitals. So when the chance came up to be the next chief executive officer for financially strapped Guam Memorial Hospital, he saw an opportunity that others might run away from.

The Pacific Daily News reports Lewis is wrapping up his job at the Guam Seventh-day Adventist Clinic, where he's been CEO for more than two years, to lead GMH at a challenging time for the local government-owned hospital.

GMH announced Monday that Lewis will become the administrator and CEO for the local government hospital.

In addition to GMH's recurring cash shortages and need for taxpayer-funded bailout, GMH also will soon have competition for the first time from a private hospital.

The brand-new Guam Regional Medical City aims to start seeing patients beginning a few weeks from now.

If patients who have health insurance and have the means to pay their hospital bills choose to go to the new private hospital over GMH, Lewis acknowledged that the government hospital will go through some challenges, but those will be temporary, he said.

As GMH improves, there will be more than enough patients who would prefer to seek care on Guam to keep both the government hospital and the private hospital in business, Lewis said.

"Certainly it's a challenge, especially in the short run, but I think in the long run, I welcome it, and the reason for that is if you look at the number of people who leave Guam for medical care, it's astounding," Lewis said.

"The number of people who go outside of Guam for care is so large that if we can keep even a third of those here -- there's plenty of business for everyone," Lewis said.

Led by Dr. Larry Lizama, medical director and interim chief executive at GMH, the government hospital is actively recruiting for additional physicians, which Lewis said makes him feel "excited about the future."

Lewis has been on GMH's Board of Trustees for about a year now, so he's familiar with the hospital's internal challenges.

He said the governor and the Legislature have shown commitment to continue supporting GMH.

Lewis is expected to start his new job early next month.

Guam law bans the hiring of a board member to a classified position within 180 days of the person's last day as a board member, but it exempts hiring within that period if it's "to fill a critical, but vacant" position within that period, the law states.

Joseph Verga, GMH's former CEO and recruit from Canada, abruptly resigned in March, but neither Verga nor the board has said anything publicly about the reason for his departure.

The hospital CEO's job pays $200,000 a year, the hospital staffing pattern shows.

Lewis has more than 25 years of experience in the hospital industry including, senior leadership positions at Parkview Medical Center in Maine; Riverside Medical Center in Louisiana; Baton Rouge General Medical Center; and Fort Washington Hospital, GMH administration announced in a press release.

Lewis received his bachelor's and master's in business administration from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, GMH's press release stated. He is a certified health-care manager and a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

"What I bring to the table is -- I have a background of a diverse set of experiences working at inner-city hospitals, large teaching facility environments, community hospitals ... and I've had the opportunity over several years to gain experience in many different areas," Lewis said.

"I've seen every situation, so I'm familiar with just about any situation there is," Lewis added.

A major part of GMH's financial struggles stems from its mission: It can't refuse patients regardless of their ability to pay.

An audit report released in September last year states $161 million worth of patient services were unpaid over the years. The government of Guam subsidized GMH with $22 million this budget year, Pacific Daily News files show.

While his upcoming job won't be easy, Lewis said, "one of the things that attracts me to this situation is I love working in an environment where there's a keen sense of mission."

Lewis said his parents brought him up to look at obstacles with a glass-half-full view.

"You can look at them as stumbling blocks and be frustrated and have it destroy you, or you can look at that obstacle and say, 'It's a stepping stone and it's an opportunity for improvement," Lewis said, adding later: "And then when you approach things that way, all of a sudden, good things happen."


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