Waianae ER may be closed Sunday nights


POSTED: Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Retiree Jackie Watson said she worries about a potential shutdown of the emergency room of the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center because she has asthma and might need to go elsewhere, such as the Queen's Medical Center.

“;I could die from there to Queen's,”; she said.

A number of people spoke during a meeting last night on the Waianae Coast, as its major medical center is considering closing its emergency room services for an eight-hour shift each week from Sunday at midnight through 8 a.m. Monday due to state budget cutbacks.

The nonprofit center would be able to save about $330,000 a year in the cost-cutting move, said Chief Executive Officer Richard Bettini.

More than 30 people attended the meeting in the center's dining room.

Bettini said the eight-hour shutdown would take place starting Oct. 1 unless the center is able to raise the necessary funds.

The next nearest emergency room service is at Hawaii Medical Center-West in Ewa, an additional driving distance of 20 to 40 minutes from the center's emergency room in Waianae.

Bettini said cutting emergency room services is a last resort, and the center is looking at various ways to reduce cost and raise money, such as holding fundraisers, finding benefactors and seeking an adjustment in Medicare reimbursement, which is less than 50 cents on the dollar.

“;We're looking at what can sustain the services,”; he said. “;At this point we're not focusing on the state putting these dollars in the budget. ... We want to be cooperative and work together with the state and state agencies.”;

Bettini said the state has made a number of cuts in its contribution to the center, including $400,000 in emergency room services over a three-year period.

Bettini said because of its budget and competition from other medical facilities on Oahu, the center is having difficulty recruiting staff.

He said the Sunday-Monday shift was selected because it generally has the least amount of activity, an average of about seven emergencies.

Center emergency physician Dr. Robert Bonham said people sometimes do not have the time to ride in an ambulance to another emergency facility.

On Monday morning, Bonham said, a woman came into the emergency room and gave birth six minutes after her arrival.

At about the same time, he said, a woman who had an asthmatic attack had difficulty breathing and needed a tube inserted into her trachea.

He said the woman could have died without quick medical attention.

“;These people did not have more minutes to go elsewhere,”; he said.