Wednesday, February 3, 1999

Kahuku Hospital
implements cost-saving
steps to survive

By Helen Altonn


Kahuku Hospital officials are optimistic about the financially troubled facility's survival.

"It looks good," said Gary Stay, interim chief executive officer. "All the employees are empowered to work with us on this thing. It has taken that attitude to help us make this happen."

The hospital has struggled to keep its doors open since running a $1.5 million deficit two years ago.

Now, hospital officials are talking to larger health-care organizations about health concerns in the North Shore area and a possible affiliation.

"Basically, we're a small hospital and today's world is so complex in health care," said Stay. "It takes a larger organization."

Stay, who formerly ran a large Denver hospital, is retired from Intermountain Health Care, which manages nine rural hospitals. He's helping Kahuku as a volunteer.

He said Kahuku has cut the equivalent of about 14 full-time employees, saving about $500,000 per year. "There is no change in the quality of care. We're just leaner and meaner and more capable."

He said the hospital has received considerable help from Queen's Medical Center and the Queen Emma Foundation, as well as the community.

"They're helping us do transitioning so we can get money to stay alive to operate until we get cost-saving initiatives in place."

Gov. Ben Cayetano last year authorized the emergency release of $390,000 from a legislative subsidy to sustain the hospital. Another state subsidy will be requested this year, Stay said.

The hospital also is getting bills out faster to insurance companies and others owing money and collecting money faster, he said.

Stay has noted a dramatic increase in hospital use in the past two months. "The community is starting to use us a little bit more," he said, partly due to the hospital's addition of an obstetrician. "A number of new babies are coming in."

Also, he said the hospital was using four beds for both acute and skilled nursing patients, which wasn't appropriate under state licensing regulations.

Swing beds have been eliminated and the hospital's 25 beds have been redesignated to increase long-term care beds from 11 to 16. The others are for acute patients.

Kahuku Hospital is a "wonderful investment of a very good building," Stay said. "Wouldn't it be a shame to lose this hospital and later on say, 'We've got to have health care (on the North Shore)?' "

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