By Jacob Nakamura
(Tumon, Guam) The allegations of medical malpractice against Guam Regional Medical City are mounting. In the timeline of malpractice allegations by patients and survivors of patients - most of whom cannot afford to challenge the system - there is a consistent factor: virtually 99 percent of the allegations occurred after Margaret Bengzon was removed as the CEO following a hostile takeover.
The latest malpractice allegation is by 53-year-old Yigo resident and veteran Jim Mansfield, who believes GRMC is fraudulently performing unnecessary procedures in order to skim medical insurance providers through billings and claims.
The procedure he refers to is an angioplasty and insertion of a stent on March 18 during an angiogram test, without his permission... while he was awake.
"I arrived at [GRMC at] about 11 a.m. on March 18th, and since there was no cardiologist I had to wait until 5:30 p.m. for one to arrive from [Guam Memorial Hospital] and by that time I was in completely stable condition and my EKG tests indicate that everything was normal," Mr. Mansfield said. An EKG is an electrocardiogram test. According to the Mayo Clinic, it "records the electrical signal from your heart to check for different heart conditions."
"I was informed of an angiogram test only to just check my heart arteries, and it was never explained to me that they would do anything but that, and I was never informed about risks or complications if they did the angioplasty and stent. And because of this unexpected and completely unnecessary invasive surgery I've had constant pain that I have never had before March 18. Now, because of that angioplasty and stent, I'm also at a higher risk of heart attacks and blood clots forming because of the heart stent."
The last thing Mr. Mansfield wanted to do on the morning of March 18 was call 911 and have medics take him to GRMC after feeling tightness in his chest for the first time in his life, he says. He said he went just to be sure, but that he'd never had heart problems before, so he had no other reason to believe he had problems with his arteries or his heart. The EKG results, he said, prove that, and the doctor who inserted the stent without his consent should have known about the results before the invasive procedure.
"After the angioplasty and stent my EKG went to abnormal, so this is again medical documented proof that GRMC put my life and health at risk just to make more money from the VA," Ms. Mansfield said. "And when I spoke to the cardiologist on May 29, he told me when I showed him my normal EKG test that he would have never done the procedure if he would have known that it was normal; he says he never knew. This is unbelievable malpractice, since he should have known and I have the timeline to prove he should have known."
The veteran's insurance coverage is with TriWest Healthcare Alliance, which provides insurance to veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. GRMC is charging Mr. Mansfield more than $49,000 for a procedure he never approved, conducted on him while he wasn't even sedated.
"I reported this matter to the VA and TriWest since I will not allow them to pay this over $49,000 hospital bill for two days, because these funds could be used to help another sick soldier or veteran in need," Mr. Mansfield said. "This is fraud, waste and abuse. And patients should have rights against this. I called the Attorney General's Office and they advised me to file an injury report at the police station. And TriWest and the VA are also doing an investigation."
The doctor, who performed the procedure on him has left Guam, according to Mr. Mansfield, and he'll be gone for another six months. He said the doctor "never provided me with any aftercare program or with any cardio rehab program, which is really unethical for a medical professional."
This isn't even the latest allegation of medical malpractice committed at GRMC. Dededo resident Adam Baker says he was mutilated by the hospital, and now is paralyzed, with a portion of his spinal column protruding from his back. He walked into the hospital his slight pain in his leg, and now he cannot walk. He is in constant pain. Kandit will be bringing you his story as well.
Mr. Mansfield has been protesting outside GRMC to raise awareness of the medical malpractice issue there and throughout Guam. He joins a long line of patients and survivors of mutilated patients, including Twylla Taitague's infant daughter, Baby Faith, who never saw anything but the hospital room, where she contracted an infection and died.
While protesting, Mr. Mansfield met Analyn Lagrimas, whose father is a victim of medical malpractice, according to her passionate testimony before the Guam Legislature. Ms. Lagrimas's father has been a patient at GRMC, fighting for his life. According to Mr. Mansfield, Ms. Lagrimas feels helpless and believes the hospital is keeping her father in his condition "to drain the Medicare system."
GRMC has been in financial disarray since Ms. Bengzon was forced out as its CEO. It was after she left GRMC that nearly every public allegation of malpractice has been made against that hospital. GRMC even closed its pediatric intensive care unit and labor and delivery ward following the death of Baby Faith Taitague. The provision of these maternity services was part of the hospital's contract with the government of Guam to receive its qualifying certificate. That QC provides a significant tax abatement from corporate income and property taxes. Another segment of Guam law exempts GRMC from paying the business privilege tax.
Kandit has been covering these stories under our continuing investigative journey to have the Guam Legislature repeal the Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration (MMMA) Act. This journey began with David Lubofsky, whose five-year-old son Asher Dean was left to die by doctors around 7 a.m. October 31, 2018.
The MMMA prevents lawsuits against doctors, clinics, and hospitals for malpractice until medical malpractice arbitration is conducted. The law requires patients or their survivors to bear the cost of medical malpractice arbitration, which starts around $60,000.
Mr. Lubofsky and Ms. Taitague are asking the courts for declaratory relief and to find the MMMA an unconstitutional infringement on due process rights.
They, Ms. Lagrimas, and Monica DeVera - whose son also was a victim of medical malpractice by GRMC - have asked the Guam Legislature to repeal the law.
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes has introduced a measure that makes mild changes to the law, but does nothing in the way of allowing torts against the medical industry for malpractice. Her office has admitted that the bill she introduced was designed by doctors.
Kandit has analyzed full reports of the contributions made to the members of the 35th Guam Legislature and Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero during the 2018 election. Doctors and medical industry executives are among the largest contributors to political campaigns. Francis Santos, GRMC's second in command, was the chairman of Ms. Leon Guerrero's 2018 election campaign and is a member of her inner "kitchen cabinet."
Dr. Michael Cruz, GRMC's current CEO, is the head of her Physicians Advisory Group for the current COVID-19 crisis, and was appointed state surgeon for the effort.