About half of all the recruited nurses from the Philippines have been denied visa renewals at GRMC.
Guam - Reports have been coming in that the new Guam Regional Medical City has had to turn away some transfer patients because on some days they reach their full capacity.
It’s not just a problem that’s seen at GRMC, the Guam Memorial Hospital is feeling it too—a shortage of nurses. In fact, the issue extends throughout the nation. Dr. Mike Cruz is the Chief Medical Officer at GRMC.
"I think the US Labor Bureau of Statistics says that there’s gonna be at least a million RN vacancies by 2025 or so," says Dr. Cruz.
Here on Guam, the issue is exacerbated by immigration problems. Approximately 40 percent of GRMC’s nurses are from the Philippines. Dr. Cruz says they’ve had to recruit from the Philippines because of the shortage in the states. So what about nurses from the University of Guam?
"They’re great nurses but we’re not able to get them soon enough and remember they’re coming out brand new so they also do need training," he explains.
"Guam doesn’t have the specialty nurses that it needs to be able to deliver the specialty services that we are able to deliver in GRMC," says GRMC CEO Margaret Bengzon, adding that they’ve already absorbed as many UOG nursing graduates as they can get.
Meanwhile, the nurses from the Philippines who have been brought to Guam are facing possible deportation if immigration concerns aren’t addressed. Bengzon says about half of the nurses from the Philippines were denied visa extensions.
"The denials for the extension were very surprising and very unusual because for the most part this process is very standard," notes Bengzon. "So we sought clarification from USCIS in Washington, DC."
Bengzon says the USCIS explained that their California Office, which has oversight of Guam, had some organizational changes and new staff.
"When you’re coming off of training I guess there’s a tendency to be overly conservative," she explains.
At this point, Bengzon says the nurses who were denied renewals have up to 180 days left on Guam, which will take them to sometime in August or September. She’s hoping that the issue will be resolved by then.
"The good news is we’ve had a lot of support from everybody in Guam and California and Washington who can weigh in--has weighed in. So the congresswoman is very committed to getting this resolved, so is the governor," she says.
Bengzon says they are also working with the Department of Defense because of its potential impact on the military buildup since GRMC receives a large number of referrals from the Naval Hospital.