Frustrated doctor leaving Maui
His plan for a private clinic blocked, Kwon takes a Boston post
The doctor who led unsuccessful efforts to build a privately funded second hospital on Maui is joining a clinic in Boston next month.
"The crazy thing about it, I didn't even apply for this (new) job," said Dr. Ron Kwon, 61, who has had a private practice in Wailuku for nearly 23 years.
He said he will be medical director of a clinic with 40 physicians associated with the Harvard Vanguard Medical system, a group practice affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
It was a "painful" decision to leave, he said. "My friends, patients and office staff are devastated," he said. "But I can't continue to stay here and watch things degrade further."
Kwon worked the past 10 years on the proposed $212 million Malulani Health and Medical Center in Kihei. The application was rejected by the State Health Planning and Development Agency's Certificate of Need Review Panel in 2006.
He said he was recruited by Harvard Vanguard Medical Services while trying to get the application approved for a second Maui hospital. He did not accept until after the project was denied, he said.
The Maui-born doctor was educated at Harvard and was practicing at a private community hospital in Boston when he decided to return home and build his own practice.
"We had a decent community hospital, but things changed when the Legislature formed the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. (which operates Maui Memorial Medical Center)," he said.
"When we pushed to privatize Maui Memorial, they wouldn't let us do that," he said, so he established Malulani Health Systems, a community-based nonprofit organization, to work with a for-profit Texas-based company, Triad Hospitals Inc., to build a private hospital.
The proposal had strong support from the community, governor and Maui mayor, but the state review panel said it did not meet strict criteria required by state law. Staffing concerns were cited because of the state's shortage of doctors and nurses.
Kwon said, "We were not turned down on the basis of need, land, financing or staffing. All met the criteria. The only reason we were turned down was adverse impact on the existing provider. If we take that reasoning, no one can ever build a hospital on Maui."
Thomas M. Driskill Jr., HHSC president and chief executive officer, said Kwon "is a gentleman who has tried very hard to make a difference and help in many ways."
"As difficult as all that situation has been, I trust and pray goodness in the long run will come out of it. If nothing else, health care needs, problems and concerns have been given great visibility. We wish him well in all endeavors."