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Traumatic lack of cash afflicts state hospitals, mayor warns


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POSTED: Monday, October 27, 2008

HILO » Big Island Mayor Harry Kim held a “;summit”; meeting of about 70 business, labor, and health care professionals Friday to prod them to save the island's state hospitals from budget shortfalls.

               

     

 

 

LOSING MILLIONS

        Hawaii Health Systems Corp. facilities

       

» Hilo Medical Center

       

» Hale Hoola Hamakua, Big Island

       

» Kau Hospital, Big Island

       

» Kona Community Hospital

       

» Kohala Hospital

       

» Maui Memorial Medical Center

       

» Kula Hospital, Maui

       

» Lanai Community Hospital

       

» Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital

       

» Samuel Mahelona Medical Hospital, Kauai

       

» Leahi Hospital, Oahu

       

» Maluhia, Oahu

       

» Kahuku Medical Center

       

       

“;What will be your reaction if you read Kona Hospital is going to close?”; he challenged.

Thomas M. Driskill Jr., president of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which runs the hospitals, was equally blunt.

“;Our health care world has gone mad,”; he said.

Noting losses of $150 million statewide last year, he added, “;These numbers are crazy. We've got disaster facing us.”;

At the Legislature, Kim said, “;I'm convinced nobody is really listening.”;

State hospitals are primarily a neighbor island system. Only two of its hospitals are on Oahu.

In past decades, neighbor island legislators banded together to fund neighbor island needs, but they no longer have that power, said Kim's aide Andy Levin.

Medical care is the only business in which one patient might pay 100 percent of the costs and another only 50 percent, Driskill said.

Kau businessman Rell Woodward said he ended his practice as an obstetrician because he was reimbursed only 30 percent of his costs. The only solution is a national, universal health care system, he said.

Earl Greenia, head of the Kona Community Hospital, said Hawaii's overall reimbursement rate of 92 percent is the worst in the nation, and Kona is the worst in Hawaii with reimbursement of 75 percent.

Another problem is long-term patients in acute-care beds.

When Kim was taken to the private Queen's Medical Center for a heart attack five weeks ago, he had to wait nine hours for a bed, he said. Fifty-five beds at Queen's were designated for acute care but held long-term patients.

One woman had been in an acute-care bed for a year, he said. Hospitals lose money on long-term patients because reimbursements are so low. Greenia said such patients cost up to $24,000 a month. Reimbursements are at most $15,000 a month and often far less.

A nursing home can cost $8,000 per month. But hospitals do not want to send long-term patients to nursing homes because reimbursements to doctors are so low they will not treat nursing home patients, Greenia said.