Shriners show off rebuilt local hospital


POSTED: Friday, May 29, 2009

Douglas Maxwell recalled flying here six years ago to see what could be done for the aging Shriners Hospital for Children.

Maxwell, the highest-ranking Shriner in the world as Imperial Potentate of Shriners International, said it was decided after a study to rebuild the hospital that has given free treatment to thousands of children throughout the Pacific since 1923.

The Punahou Street facility was the second of 22 international orthopedic hospitals and burn-care units built by the Shriners.

“;All through the years, Shriners has taken care of children who really needed help regardless of who they are and where they come from,”; said U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka. King Kalakaua was a Shriner, he noted, “;so we have a heritage here.”;

About 400 patients, family members, Hawaii and mainland Shriners and other dignitaries toured the new main hospital building yesterday after a blessing.

Participating in the ceremony in wheelchairs were two recent hospital patients—Papu Uti, 15, of Kapolei and Lole Taula, 17, of American Samoa. “;It's good,”; Taula said of the new hospital. “;It's the best,”; added his mother, Torressa.

For the first time, Shriners solicited funds in a capital campaign for the building project. The target was $14 million; about $11 million has been raised in local contributions. Shriners will pay the balance from its endowment.

Raoul Frevel of Baltimore, Shriners board of trustees member and building and equipment committee chairman, said the total cost will be about $76 million.

“;It's gorgeous,”; he said yesterday after a look at the first phase, opening in July for patients. “;It's children-friendly. They don't think they're at a hospital—they think they're at camp.”;

It's a pretty slick camp with high-tech equipment for surgeries and an inviting water, land and sky design to enthrall children.

When kids are lying on a mat in rehabilitation, for example, they can see imprints of fish in the ceiling. A mosaic tile wall featuring local fish and wildlife and a mobile of colorful fish hanging from the second floor are among attractions. The lobby also will have an aquarium.

Dr. Ellen Raney, orthopedic surgeon and hospital chief of staff, said the new facility “;is just going to be wonderful—much better for families and children.”; And for the staff? “;We're happy as long as we can provide care for kids,”; she said.