Health care isn't a luxury -- Maui needs a second hospital
I AM a certified neonatal nurse with more than 10 years of experience in a Level 3 neonatal intensive care in Detroit. I have written a book on neonatal skin, and did neonatal transport. I am an inventor of neonatal products and equipment. I currently work in the well-baby nursery at Maui Memorial Medical Center.
I moved to Maui to start a neonatal intensive care unit. After visiting here and learning of the desperate need of our island for quality advanced medical care, I wanted to help. I was thrilled to meet Dr. Ron Kwon, a Harvard graduate, who had already done much of the work in getting Malulani Health and Medical Center, a new, state-of-the-art teaching hospital, off the ground.
I also was excited with his partnership with Triad Hospitals Inc.. We could have our hospital free -- no tax money involved. In fact, Malulani will pay taxes. What a wonderful gift for the people of Maui!
I come from a world of competitive health care. The hospitals in the Detroit area work together. There is room for all of them. Due to the competition between the hospitals, they have all improved for the benefit of the patient. Competition is a good thing. It keeps everyone on their toes and results in high-quality health care. We on Maui deserve high-quality care, too.
We had our first certificate-of-need meeting on July 7, and the residents of this island spoke loud and clear for Malulani. Malulani passed that CON.
We had our second CON on Oahu last Thursday. The review panel turned us down because they think we cannot staff the hospital. I have a drawer full of resumes from doctors, nurses and other health professionals from all over the world, just from hearing about us through the medical grapevine -- no advertising.
I must question two things about the Oahu panel's decision:
» Why does the CON panel care about the staffing of Malulani? It does not affect anyone but Malulani. If Malulani cannot get staff, it loses -- not the state taxpayers, not the residents of Maui.
» You do not staff a hospital before it is even built. There is no sense in bothering doctors and nurses and recruiting them to a hospital that does not as yet exist.
So what is their agenda? MMMC's proposed cardiac center is passing with little review. The state wants to spend your tax money -- including that of the residents of Oahu -- on a cardiac unit that is not even funded. Malulani is trying to build one free -- no tax dollars at work. The governor said we cannot afford to build this cardiac wing. But Triad says if Malulani cannot come up with its portion of the money for the new hospital, Triad is prepared to pay all of it.
I do not understand: One free, state-of-the-art hospital with complete infrastructure with a cardiac center, or pay millions of our tax dollars for a cardiac unit that will be added onto a 54-year-old, crumbling facility that does not even have a proper emergency room or any other of the infrastructure capable of supporting it.
Cardiac care starts in the emergency room, and MMMC's ER is currently very overextended. We cannot get the products and equipment we need to provide our current services, our facilities are literally falling apart, and MMMC wants to expand with your tax dollars, Oahu. How cost-effective is this? We do not even have a blood bank here on Maui!
I am dismayed at the level of care available to us on Maui. We have access only to the simplest medical care. One in eight patients must fly to Oahu for health care. How cost-effective is this? The financial burden this places on residents of Maui is huge. The financial burden of one family going to Oahu to be with their sick baby for 10 days is $3,500. This is before any medical transport bills are paid by us, the taxpayers. We could take care of 90 percent of the sick and premature newborns right here on Maui.
Do we care only about the finances of the hospitals and the state, and not about the Maui residents' financial needs? There is no continuity of care on Maui. Patients see a doctor on Oahu whom they do not know with facilities and staff they are unfamiliar with.
Please help me take care of the preemies born on this island. We have no facilities for preemies or sick babies at all, yet 12.8 percent of the babies born here are premature. We have two neonatal intensive care nurses and no working neonatologist. This affects the outcome of our babies. They will not do as well as babies born on Oahu who get immediate expert care. Shipping our babies to Oahu is dangerous. Moving premature or sick infants around could cause their death. They need to be moved as little as possible. They are not supposed to be out in the real world at all yet.
We have one government-run hospital; Oahu has 13 great hospitals. Share the wealth. It is a sad day for me when I see health care driven solely by profits. Please show us on Maui that compassion is a concern in this state.
Janice M. Shields, a certified neonatal nurse, works at Maui Memorial Medical Center. She lives in Pukalani, Maui.