Swift bipartisan effort saved Kahuku Hospital
IT MIGHT BE called the "feel good" story of 2007. The state Legislature is often criticized, but this year my legislative colleagues, along with the governor's office and the state Department of Health, stepped up to the plate and hit a home run for residents of the North Shore and Ko'olauloa.
Legislators of both parties came together during the 2007 session and passed critical measures to save Kahuku Hospital. Gov. Linda Lingle followed through by signing the legislation and by releasing funds to keep the hospital in operation.
On , May 31, Lingle signed Act 113, previously known as House Bill 843. The new law allows the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation to acquire the privately owned hospital, appropriating $3.9 million for the acquisition and transition.
Kahuku Hospital serves more than 25,000 residents in a rural area of Oahu. The next nearest hospitals, Wahiawa General and Castle Medical Center, are approximately a 45-minute driving distance away, depending on individual circumstances. The potential closure of Kahuku would have put area residents in grave danger.
I'M PROUD of our bipartisan efforts. The community not only benefits greatly in the vital area of health care, but worries of where North Shore and Ko'olauloa residents should take their loved ones during a medical emergency won't be necessary. Kahuku Hospital, including its 24-hour emergency room, will be open for business for years to come.
Before this past legislative session, we all heard the stories about the impending closure of the 25-bed hospital that has been in operation since 1929. Rumors about the closure had been around for years, but we reacted quickly when we recognized the immediacy of the situation.
HERE'S SOME of what took place: First, the governor released $500,000 from last year's budget to keep the hospital from closing its doors at the beginning of 2007. Around the same time, Kahuku Hospital reached a Memorandum of Understanding with the DOH to begin the process of turning the hospital over to state control. Then, the Legislature quickly passed Senate Bill 1260, making an emergency appropriation of $950,000 to ensure operating funds through the end of June. The governor signed the bill and promptly released the funds.
Next, the Legislature took care of the future. HB 843, now Act 113, was passed to allow the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation to take over the hospital. Then, HB 1377 increased the expenditure ceiling of the Health Systems special fund to help pay for operational costs. Finally, the biennium budget bill set aside a total of $3 million, or $1.5 million each year, to help subsidize operations at the hospital.
THIS SPENDING is not only necessary, it is critical. With its oversight of the HHSC, the Legislature is making a promise to continue both funding and monitoring of Kahuku Hospital -- the area's third-largest employer with more than 70 staff members. The area's critical care needs will be met!
Because of the governor's and the Legislature's prompt action this year, and because of the hard work of so many people living along the North Shore and Ko'olauloa, Kahuku Hospital will continue to serve all of us for many years to come.
Colleen Meyer, a Republican, represents District 47 (Laie to Kaneohe) in the state House.