The Navy on Saturday said Naval Hospital Guam will accept compact migrants referred to the facility for treatment, but a former Guam lawmaker yesterday said there was a huge backlash more than a decade ago when she tried to send a migrant patient there.

Guam's veterans and military retirees were outraged that regional immigrants might be put ahead of them in line for health care at the military hospital.

The ability of affected jurisdictions, such as Guam, to refer regional immigrants to Department of Defense hospitals on a space-available basis is one of the provisions of the 2003 Compacts of Free Association between the United States and regional governments. The compacts, which allow citizens of several island nations to live and work on Guam and elsewhere in the United States, are federal law.

Pregnant FSM teen
Former Republican Sen. Carlotta Leon Guerrero said in 2000 she tried to help a 16-year-old pregnant teen from Chuuk state, in the Federated States of Micronesia, get care at Naval Hospital Guam.

The military hospital didn't reject the teen outright, Leon Guerrero said, but it sent a letter to thousands of veterans and military retirees, telling them migrants would be ahead of them in priority for health care.

"The firestorm created was so intense. There was so much pressure put on that I was curtailed," Leon Guerrero said. Local lawmakers' offices were swamped with phone calls from those who protested the policy, she said.

Leon Guerrero currently is executive director of the Ayuda Foundation, which helps residents of remote island nations in the Micronesia region get access to timely, quality health care supplies and services.

The government of Guam has argued that the federal government is not adequately reimbursing Guam for the costs associated with providing government services to compact immigrants.

GovGuam has estimated that regional immigrants cost the island $856 million during the past 11 years, of which $291 million was for public health and welfare services.

Advocate: Veterans protested care for migrants at Navy hospital | Pacific Daily News |