A Guam doctor yesterday told lawmakers that Guam Memorial Hospital isn’t safe for patients. He said island doctors kill patients.
“The hospital is a basket case, to put it in a mild fashion. There are doctors on the island who are hurting patients, who are killing patients. And these aren’t sick patients,” oncologist Dr. Sam Friedman said during his confirmation hearing yesterday.
“There’s no accountability that I see until there’s a fuss made in the paper. This shouldn’t be happening in a Western world,” he said.
Friedman was appointed by Gov. Eddie Calvo to the Guam Board of Medical Examiners, which oversees local licensing for medical practitioners on Guam.
During the hearing, Friedman made allegations of serious incompetence and misconduct by medical practitioners on island — including an allegation that a woman recently died while in labor because of a mistake by a medical professional.
“There was a young woman who died in labor two months ago. Totally preventable case. Something that a junior medical student wouldn’t do,” said Friedman.
Friedman didn’t elaborate on the case.
Interim Hospital Administrator Rey Vega didn’t return phone calls yesterday for comment. When asked about the accusations of misconduct and incompetence at GMH, Troy Torres, director of communications for the Calvo administration, said Vega “is looking into the statements made by Dr. Friedman.”
Friedman also addressed a dispute between himself and a nurse at the hospital, spoke about his critical position on the accreditation of GMH, and explained why he gave up his hospital privileges three years ago.
Vacancy in dispute
But even before those issues were addressed, senators first wrangled with whether there was a vacancy on the board to which he was appointed.
Democratic Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, chairman of the health committee, said his office was investigating whether there was a vacancy on the board. He said it was unclear if a law passed to limit terms on certain boards, including the Guam Board of Medical Examiners, violated the Organic Act of Guam.
According to James Canto, chief legal counsel of the Calvo administration, all seven appointments have expired. The members of the board are: Joan Gill; James Murphy; James Stadler; Patrick Santos; Ricardo Eusebio; Ronald Kobayashi; and Julie G. Lujan, Canto said.
In written testimony provided to the committee, Cely Mangrobang, a nurse supervisor at GMH, accused Friedman of racism against Filipino nurses.
“Dr. Sam Friedman’s behavior toward our nurses was extremely unprofessional and can even be considered racist,” wrote Mangrobang. “He made derogatory remarks to our staff of particular, negative attention to Filipino nurses. He said, ‘Filipino nurses are stupid and incompetent.’ His statement not only insults our wonderful, hard-working Filipino nurses, but also our health-care profession in general.”
Friedman called the accusation of derogatory remarks “lies” and said that his interaction with Mangrobang was limited to a single altercation five years ago.
He told senators that, at the time, he was treating an “extremely ill” patient, and gave instructions to a nurse to give the patient a drug by continuous infusion over seven days.
“I got a call from the nurse on the board that, oops, she gave the seven-day dose … in an hour, which could have been a fatal error,” said Friedman.
He said he confronted Mangrobang, as the nursing supervisor, about the error, “this woman yelled at me for 45 minutes, half an hour.”
Rodriguez said his office received phone calls and testimony submitted in response to Friedman’s appointment. According to documents received by the Pacific Daily News, approximately 95 people, many of whom said they were nurses, signed several petitions opposing Friedman’s appointment the board.
Friedman also addressed concerns about the fact that he no longer has privileges at GMH.
He told legislators he gave up privileges at GMH three years ago after he submitted paperwork to renew the privilege but got a letter that said he hadn’t. He said after repeated efforts to contact the administrator with no response, he gave up.
“To hell with them,” Friedman said.
Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz asked Friedman if it would be important that someone approved for practice on Guam have privileges at GMH.
Friedman said it would depend on what the doctor would be doing and noted that he treats patients outside of GMH. He said he can treat patients in one hour, while it would take 24 hours at GMH, and that he could do so at a fraction of the cost.
“I think when the hospital gets up to the standard of care where it’s safe to put patients in — which it isn’t now, but hopefully will be shortly –yes, I agree,” Friedman said. “I think, right now, it’s not safe for many patients to be there.”
Friedman also said he wasn’t opposed to the recently obtained accreditation by the Joint Commission, but said maintaining the accreditation is “costing a tremendous amount of money” and not necessarily improving patient care.
“Even though you have the hospital approved by (the Joint Commission), it doesn’t look at medical care of patients,” he told senators. “It looks at an overall medical spectrum. … It doesn’t look at medical care. That is the job of committees composed of doctors, which is not happening.”
Friedman is no stranger to controversy. In 2009 he said he was resigning from his job at the Cancer Center of Guam and leaving Guam — citing alleged corruption in the medical community and criticism on Internet message boards.