Navy hospital lending help to Guam premature babies
January 31, 2004
Navy officials on Guam donated medical supplies and loaned tens of thousands of dollars in equipment to an off-base hospital after a recent spike in premature births that caused Guam’s governor to seek emergency federal funding.
Guam Memorial Hospital, swamped with 19 premature babies in the last two weeks, sought help from Guam’s U.S. Naval Hospital on Tuesday after Gov. Felix Camacho declared the neonatal intensive care unit a state of emergency.
Camacho requested help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, according to local news reports. Calls to Camacho’s office went unanswered Thursday.
Naval officials said they donated consumable items, including tubing and blood pressure cuffs. The equipment they loaned to the hospital included an expensive infant radiant warmer and monitors.
“We assist them when we can,” said Ensign Jerry Wilkinson, Naval hospital spokesman. He said senior officials at Guam’s Commander, Naval Forces Marianas and the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington, D.C., authorized the assistance.
The Navy also offered nursing staff, he said, but “to date, they have not taken us up on it.”
The off-base shortage won’t affect servicemembers stationed on Guam, Wilkinson said, even though the Naval Hospital doesn’t have a neonatal intensive care unit. If the need arises, he explained, troops are sent via medical evacuation to such units run by the military, on either Okinawa or Hawaii.
Wilkinson said the Naval Hospital’s nursery could accept two of the less serious cases, if needed.
He said Guam Memorial officials “appreciated our assistance and our continued support.”
A Guam Memorial spokeswoman could not be reached for comment Thursday.
According to a Pacific Daily News report, Guam’s Department of Public Health and Social Services is investigating the spike in premature births. On average, the paper reported, Guam’s neonatal intensive care unit houses three to six premature babies at any given time.