F.L. MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
"While those of you who have a facility near your residence sleep comfortable each night, we in Kahuku wonder and worry. Each night when I hear the sounds of the ambulances, I think of what would happen if the hospital was not there." CLICK FOR LARGE
Senate panel eyes public funds to resuscitate Kahuku Hospital
The Health Committee would put the facility under Hawaii Health Systems Corp. control
Endangered Kahuku Hospital appears on the way to finding a financial savior with state funds and support.
At the state Legislature yesterday, the Senate Health Committee took the first steps to implement a plan to put the hospital under the wing of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which manages the state hospitals.
The committee also needs to approve Gov. Linda Lingle's request for an emergency appropriation of $950,000 to keep the 25-bed hospital open.
The two bills, Senate Bill 952
and SB 1464
, will allow the hospital to go through bankruptcy and then become part of the state system, said Eric Beaver, president of the hospital's board of directors.
"Public funding makes good sense for critical lifesaving services in rural areas that do not have population bases and market resources to support them. That's Kahuku Hospital's plight," Beaver said.
After the hearing, Sen. David Ige, Health Committee chairman, said he will ask his committee to recommend that the bills to save the hospital be approved.
"It is pretty clear that the community needs access to emergency services and health care," Ige said.
More than 200 Kahuku community members, hospital employees and health service industry supporters sent testimony supporting the rural hospital.
"While those of you who have a facility near your residence sleep comfortable each night, we in Kahuku wonder and worry," said Lance Pagador, who said he lives next to the hospital.
"Each night when I hear the sounds of the ambulances, I think of what would happen if the hospital was not there," he added.
North Shore resident Irene Lesuma said she believes "people will die if the hospital is taken away from us."
Officials with both Brigham Young University Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center, the two largest employers in the area, also testified in favor of keeping the hospital open.