First built at Oka Pt. in 1956

Located in Oka, Tamuning, Guam Memorial Hospital is Guam’s only public hospital, with a licensed bed capacity of 158 acute care beds, plus forty licensed long-term care beds at its Skilled Nursing Facility located in Barrigada Heights. The availability of beds for actual admissions at both facilities necessarily varies in accordance with the availability of fully trained and licensed staff.

Guam Memorial Hospital was constructed at Oka Point in 1956, representing a major change in the history of the local government’s role in the delivery of medical care to the community. For many years, the US government provided free hospital and health care services to the people of Guam. The US Naval forces assumed responsibility for the island’s medical needs at the turn of the 20th century when the United States took formal possession of Guam. These services continued with the US Navy’s delivery of care after World War II, and culminated with their donation of GMH facility to the Government of Guam’s Department of Public Health and Welfare. This 230-bed hospital offered acute, psychiatric and long-term care services.

In 1964, the Guam Memorial Hospital was established as a line agency of the Government of Guam’s executive branch. This creation separated the administration of hospital services from community health services provided by the Department of Public Health and Welfare. Thirteen years later in 1977, the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority was created as a public corporation, and has since been operating as a governmental, nonprofit institution serving the people of Guam under the governance of a nine-member Board of Trustees.

In 1974, the local and federal government’s plans to replace the deteriorating Guam Memorial Hospital facility began to take root. The US Department of the Interior purchased and transferred the nearby Medical Center of the Marianas to the Government of Guam, to serve as the new Guam Memorial Hospital. The Medical Center of the Marianas facility was initially constructed by the Catholic Diocese to serve as a private maternal-child health facility. Financial difficulties, however, prompted the Diocese to consider the sale of the facility to meet the government’s need to replace its old facility at Oka Point. Along with the funds for the initial purchase of this facility, federal funds also were provided for the expansion of the facility to allow for the consolidation of all services on a single campus. Nearly all the acute care hospital services were relocated to the new facility by 1978. The Skilled Nursing Unit moved a bit later, in 1987.

In 1996, GMHA completed construction of its Skilled Nursing Facility in Barrigada Heights, with a capacity of sixty long-term care beds. Patients were transferred to this new facility in 1999, following its lease for several years by Saint Francis School after that school’s Yona campus was destroyed by a typhoon.

In 2010 Guam Memorial Hospital received full accreditation by The Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that accredits hospitals worldwide. GMH lost its accreditation in the early 1980s due to numerous patient safety concerns. The accreditation does not include the off-site Skilled Nursing Facility, which as a long-term care program falls under separate accreditation guidelines.

By Connor Murphy