Maui health care stands at important crossroads
DURING the past month, Maui's health care services have been on center stage with two important Certificate of Need (CON) applications coming before three state review panels. One of the CONs was for cardiovascular services at Maui Memorial Medical Center and the other was for the proposed hospital in south Maui known as the Malulani Health and Medical Center.
For the cardiovascular services CON, MMMC had unanimous approval from all three panels. For Malulani, despite enormous political pressure, the Statewide Health Coordinating Council and the CON Review Panel voted resoundingly for disapproval.
Some Maui residents understandably will be upset about the Malulani CON recommendation. I believe that these panels' decisions were based on facts and statistics, as required by the law, and not on the highly charged emotional publicity we have all been reading for some months now, and which many of us are caught up in.
Malulani's vision appealed to what we all desire -- improved health care in Maui; however, many facts that came to light during the testimony illustrated the inherent weaknesses in the Malulani proposal. We have raised many of these same points in the past, and the hearings reinforced our belief that Malulani, as proposed in its application, would have harmed Maui's health care infrastructure and served only a small segment of the community.
PERHAPS MORE important was that at the same meetings that the Malulani CON was disapproved, MMMC's CON application for the establishment of interventional cardiac catheterization and heart surgery services was unanimously approved. This is a huge step forward in delivering the services that Maui needs and wants right now, and our intention is to fill out this program in a timely manner, providing Maui citizens with the cardiac services they need on-island. This also will put Maui in the forefront of health care in the state, as we will be the only neighbor island providing these important services, along with our "best in the state" stroke program.
THE HAWAII State Health Planning and Development Agency administrator will be making his final decision on both CONs during the next two months. Regardless of the outcome, we will need to begin the process of coming together as a community to help shape a better future for health care on Maui. This highly charged issue has divided us, divided friends and family and has forced people to choose sides. No one really wins in this situation, but what we can do is to attempt to put this behind us and look for opportunities to pull ourselves back to being a close-knit, supportive community.
The issue that Maui deserves better health care services has been raised. It seems as if much of the criticism aimed at us comes from the past and is not a true reflection of who we are today. We must take strong exception to this belief and point to tremendous gains made in the past two years by the incredible hard work of our staff, most of which is unfortunately ignored by the public
Our new 75,000-square-foot wing will be opened to the public on Aug. 26, and we hope the public will come out to see what we consider to be the most beautiful hospital in the state, with the latest advancements. This will be followed by a parking structure and medical office building in two to three years, as well as the emergency department expansion, which is well under way.
I DOUBT that anyone can find an organization that has undergone more transformation and growth as Maui Memorial Medical Center has in the past two years. We look forward to continue working with other organizations to provide coordinated health care services to all the communities on Maui. MMMC is taking the first step down this path with the proposed cardiac services. We can and will do much more. That's our promise to you ... our community.
Wesley Lo is CEO of Maui Memorial Medical Center.