By Kevin Kerrigan - Guam Daily Post
The Ayuda Foundation’s Wings for Life program has been selected to receive the Department of Public Health’s portion of the unused frequent flyer miles meant for medically indigent patients needing off-island medical care.
Public Health Director James Gillan sent a memorandum to Department of Administration Director Christine Baleto last week. The memo authorizes Ayuda “to use the mileage available in the Government of Guam’s mileage bank … for qualified Medically Indigent Program (MIP) patients and qualified caretakers.”
As of October of this year, 26 million unused frequent flyer miles had accumulated in the Medical Referral and Education Mileage Program, according to DOA Public Information Officer Phillip Blas.
Half of that mileage was supposed to be given to the Department of Education to provide free travel to students attending off-island academic events. The other 50 percent was supposed to go to Public Health to cover airfares for qualified medically indigent patients. The mileage program accumulates every time a GovGuam agency books off-island travel using an administration department credit card.
The mileage hasn’t been used in years because DOA has stated it couldn’t release the mileage until Public Health and the Guam Department of Education developed standard operating procedures for its use.
However, Blas told The Guam Daily Post Tuesday that Public Health’s portion of the unused mileage could be released if Public Health designates a qualified nonprofit to receive it. If that were done, Blas told the Post, “we would simply transfer the mileage to the nonprofit based on Public Health’s certification.”
Gillan sent his memorandum to Baleto the next day. DOA has not responded to the Post's request for comment on whether Gillan’s memo will suffice, and when the mileage would be released.
The Ayuda Foundation stands to receive half, or 13 million, of the 26 million frequent flyer miles in DOA’s mileage bank.
Ayuda Foundation Executive Director Carlotta Leon Guerrero expressed her thanks to Gillan for his decision. She said her organization “is eager to pick up the pace and 13 million miles will allow us to move struggling medical patients for the next two to three years.”
Leon Guerrero estimates the 13 million frequent flyer miles could provide free flights to as many as 200 qualified MIP patients in need of off-island medical care.
HELPING THE MEDICALLY INDIGENT: The Wings for Life program, administered by the Ayuda Foundation, is one of the United Airlines' miles donation programs. It provides air transportation to people who need off-island medical treatment, but cannot afford the airfare, according to the Ayuda Foundation website.