Guam still facing ER burden despite public clinics

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HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Public health officials in Guam say a high number of people are still visiting the emergency room unnecessarily despite laws designed to drive them toward public health clinics.

Pacific Daily News reports (http://goo.gl/TJFfov ) about 70 percent of the 150 people who visit the emergency room each day aren’t admitted to Guam Memorial Hospital.

“If the intent of the law was to take pressure off of the ER, it didn’t work,” Director James Gillan of the Department of Public Health and Social Services said.

A department report says many private clinics won’t accept patients under Medicaid or the Medically Indigent Program. That means many people without private health insurance end up going to the emergency room.

The report says Medicaid patients are more than three times more likely to visit the emergency room than those who are privately insured.

The clinics can’t provide urgent care services and aren’t able to stay open 24 hours a day, said Joseph Verga, administrator for Guam Memorial Hospital.

Verga said most people go to the emergency room because the ER will see everyone in need, even if it’s not an emergency or people can’t pay.

“These are people who could have gone to a public health clinic rather than coming to the emergency room,” Verga said.

The hospital is planning to build a new urgent care clinic thanks to a new law that funds the clinic with a new 4 percent tax on gambling revenue. The tax is expected to generate as much as $1.3 million per year.

A planning committee is expected to detail the cost and location of the clinic by Nov. 5.

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Information from: Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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