Saturday, November 21, 2009

Needed: Guam must have plans for health care, public safety and education

Needed: Guam must have plans for health care, public safety and education

November 22, 2009

If Guam is going to maximize the benefit of the military buildup, the local government must properly plan for the increase in population the island will experience over the next several years.

In some areas, the plans are set. The Department of Public Works has a master plan for transportation needs that includes upgrades and expansions to roads and bridges, as well as public transit. The Port Authority of Guam has a plan for making the commercial port bigger and better. And the utility agencies have a good idea of what's needed to do in terms of additional power resources, as well as water and wastewater services.

But where are the master plans for the three top priorities for our community -- health care, education and public safety?

We've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce assessment reports, outreach efforts, consulting services for master plans for roads, infrastructure and the Port. But there hasn't been much spent on master plans for the top three quality-of-life issues for our community.

In the area of health care, it isn't even clear whose responsibility it is to develop a master plan.

We know the island will need more hospital beds and medical services, as well as an increased number of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. So how are we going to make that happen? And what about the increased demand that will be placed on public health clinics and mental health services?

What's the plan for increasing the number of police officers, or the capacity of prison and jail facilities? The Judiciary has a plan for increasing court services with a satellite facility in the north, but what about the need for additional judges and other personnel, or for more lawyers in the Office of the Attorney General, which already is short of prosecutors and other attorneys?

The Guam Department of Education, which faces a plethora of problems, will need more public schools to handle the increased population. How and where will these schools be built? Where will the needed additional teachers come from?

These aren't issues that can be put off for any longer. The buildup is progressing on pace. There's simply no more time for the government of Guam to waste.
Elected officials must work with government agencies and, in the case of health care, private professionals and clinics, to produce plans for expanding and improving local health, public safety and education services so that the island is more fully prepared for the military buildup and its aftermath.

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