Facility to provide storybook care for medically fragile kids
Kulana Malama will help kids needing long-term medical help
The first facility in the Pacific providing skilled nursing care for medically fragile children has a storybook theme for good reason: Developer Gordon Ito thought about his two grandchildren during the design phase.
"I kept telling my interior designer, 'We need to get into the minds of kids and what excites them,'" Ito said.
The Ewa facility, called Kulana Malama, resembles an enchanted forest with a floor-to-ceiling beanstalk, billowy clouds and a castle. "It's very Disneyesque," Ito said. "Unfortunately, a lot of residents will not know the difference, but their siblings will and if they appear happy and act happy, it's a great adrenaline flow for residents, also."
Ito takes his grandchildren, ages 9 and 6, every weekend to see how construction is progressing, and they love it, he said.
"Our vendors and subcontractors, I see them on the weekend bringing their children and grandchildren."
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Attendees at yesterday's blessing of Kulana Malama included CEO Gordon Ito and Executive Director Winifred Odo. Whimsical scenes and decor adorn the facility. CLICK FOR LARGE
Kulana Malama, or Center of Caring, was blessed yesterday and will open March 15 with 30 beds for children requiring long-term and chronic care.
After developing two geriatric skilled-nursing facilities, Ito said he "thought maybe the next one should be from the other end of the spectrum."
So he approached Winifred Odo, then a state human services official, about 15 years ago with the idea of a pediatric facility, he said.
"I asked her about the possibility of reimbursements, how many kids are out there and all of that," he said.
Then, nine years ago the city notified Ito, a health care developer, that property was available in Ewa, and he successfully bid on 7.5 acres.
"It's such a wonderful center," said Odo, who is now Kulana Malama's executive director. "When you walk in, you just smile. It's what we want parents and children to do. It's a happy place with a wonderful staff."
Two other nursing facilities on Oahu "provide excellent care" to medically fragile children, Odo said. "But ours is the first of its kind designed and developed strictly for children."
Like many older people, children who no longer need acute care are often wait-listed in hospitals because there is no facility they can go to and their parents cannot properly care for them, she said.
"Ideally, children belong at home, but we felt if that was impossible, we wanted to create a facility that will hopefully ... make up for not being at home," she said.
The facility is starting with two buildings, one for administration and the other a pediatric residence with a clinic. The design envisions seven buildings, all dedicated to health care, "be it geriatric or pediatric," Ito said.
"We hope to make an impact in the community. One of the first services we can offer is in the pediatric area," he said, with possible expansion as a pediatric center not only of the state, but of the Pacific Basin.
Two studio apartments will be available for parents or caregivers to move in and care for a child, with clinical oversight when a child is ready to go home, the ultimate goal, Odo said.
Dr. Byron Aoki, the medical director, is looking to establish the campus as an education center for pediatrics, bringing in doctors and nurses for training from the Pacific and Far East, Ito said.
The facility will have about 70 staff members and offer respite care for families caring for medically fragile children, he said.
"We're ready to provide absolutely the best care for children," Odo said. "We will transition beds carefully so the staff is able to tend to each child's needs."