The Story of Saulus

Deacon Saulus Olpet, leader of the Pohnpeian Catholic community on Guam

I don?t know much about the political issues surrounding Obamacare. But when I read that an additional 13 million Americans have medical insurance as a result, I feel thrilled inside. That?s not coverage for everyone, but at least it?s a good start.

Last Sunday we had just finished the Pohnpeian mass at our neighboring parish, when Deacon Saulus Olpet, the leader of the Pohnpeian Catholic community on Guam and an old friend, told me that his wife had just been released from the hospital. She had been in the new hospital recently opened in our section of the island. She was brought in with signs of a flu and remained in the hospital for 36 hours before her release. The man standing next to him, another Pohnpeian, looked at me and asked ?You know how much the deacon was charged?? When I told him I had no idea, he answered, wide-eyed with amazement: ?Nine thousand dollars.?

Ouch! I thought. Bad choice of facility for a family that has neither husband nor wife employed and is living off what they can get from their children and other members of the Pohnpeian Catholic community. The new hospital accepts cash or major insurance coverage?not Medicare or government programs for the needy. It is a private hospital and does not offer charity care for those who cannot pay. Ironically, this is the hospital that the priests in my parish serve. I have received calls in the middle of the night or on the way to dinner somewhere to make an emergency visit to someone in crisis. I don?t begrudge those patients I?ve visited the assistance they so badly need, but I do wish that the hospital would make some provision for the needs of people like my friend Saulus.

That same Sunday afternoon, Saulus? friends in the Pohnpeian community here on Guam gathered and did a fund-raiser for him. Most of them don?t have money to burn either since they are migrants holding down entry-level jobs, but they managed to raise $1,300 to help Saulus pay off his wife?s hospital bill.

If any of you who read this want to help, I will happily turn over to Saulus any donations you make, along with my own. My apologies for this appeal?I don?t like to use the blog for this sort of thing?but here there is some justification. What I know is that whenever the subject of health coverage comes up in political discussions, it will no longer be simply an academic matter. Now I have a real face to represent the needy who would be served by comprehensive health coverage.

Update, 3/1/16: If you’d like to make a donation to benefit Deacon Saulus, you can mail it to me at Santa Barbara Parish, 330 Iglesia Circle, Dededo Guam 96929. ?I’ll make sure all donations received go to Deacon Saulus.

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.