By Jacob Nakamura
Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, in answering a social media post critical of her stance in defense of doctors, admitted that as the law is written today, doctors are not being held accountable for malpractice.
"We want to hold doctors accountable, but we can't do so at the risk of jeopardizing access to healthcare," Ms. Muna Barnes said in reply to a woman named Reina Sanchez, who wrote to her, "It's still not right to force people to give up their rights to a trial through the MMMA for the special few that line your pockets deeps ok."
The MMMA is the acronym for the Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration Act, which is the focus of islandwide debate as Speaker Therese Terlaje attempts to champion reform through her Bill No. 112. The "special few" Ms. Sanchez refers to are the doctors Ms. Muna Barnes admits are currently not being held to account under the law.
As to the reference to the 'lining of pockets,' Ms. Sanchez may be on to something. A 2019 review of the campaign contributions reports of the 15 senators of the 35th Guam Legislature and Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero showed, indeed, doctors and medical industry professionals account for a healthy portion of the political donations made to winning candidates.
The stance the legislative vice speaker has taken is diametrically opposed to that of her leader, Ms. Terlaje, who said in a news conference Friday:
"Whether poor people can access the justice system is what we're trying to accomplish with this bill." - Speaker Terlaje regarding her Bill No. 112
Watch Kandit's latest public discussion of Ms. Terlaje's efforts below: