Thursday, September 23, 1999

Molokai finally
to get dialysis facility
for kidney patients

By Thanksgiving, renal patients
will no longer have to move
to Oahu for care

By Helen Altonn


STACY Crivello's mother was forced to spend two years on Oahu -- away from her Molokai home and family -- before she died last year of kidney failure.

Like so many other Molokai residents, Crivello's mother, Aunty Mae Helm, had to move to Honolulu for dialysis treatment.

She was a patient at St. Francis Medical Center for most of her two years on Oahu, said Crivello, GTE Hawaiian Tel manager for Molokai and Lanai.

Molokai residents, in community health planning, said they wanted to die on their own island. But her mother couldn't return home, Crivello said. She died in a hospice in Nuuanu.

She said her mother's "desire has always been that no one else would have to leave home to have this treatment -- that they would be able to have this treatment at home. Home is where the family is at."

Her mother's wish is finally coming true.

It's taken more than 10 years, but Molokai residents will have their own kidney dialysis facility by Thanksgiving.

About a dozen patients will begin using the facility, said Roberta Lovely, administrative director of St. Francis Medical Center's Renal Institute of the Pacific.

Some Molokai residents who had moved to Oahu and Maui for kidney dialysis will be able to return home, she said.

Judy Mikami, manager of Molokai General Hospital's Kidney Health program, said at least five residents plan to return.

AND people from other islands who require dialysis and visit Molokai relatives will be able to stay longer than a weekend.

"They don't have to rush back to Honolulu. ... They can spend quality time at home," she said.

St. Francis' Renal Institute has been working with Molokai residents to build the unit, long cited as a community health priority.

Hawaii has the highest rate of kidney failure in the nation at 9 per 10,000 population, according to statistics from the now-closed Queen Emma Community Health Program.

Molokai has the highest rate in the state at 19 per 10,000 population.

About 250 residents had been identified with renal insufficiency and potential renal disease, Mikami said.

A Molokai community advisory group, which also provides patient support, has been active in the effort to get a dialysis center.

Crivello is a key group member but said, "The core of this movement has been Judy Mikami."

Crivello said efforts to obtain a dialysis facility were initiated more than 10 years ago by members of the Jules Dudoit and David Makaiwi families.

"We're carrying the leftovers, where the seed originally was planted by Debbie Maples and Pat Kikukawa," Crivello said.

She said Dudoit, Maples' father-in-law, "passed on because of commuting back and forth" to Oahu for dialysis. Makaiwi was on home dialysis, she said. Both died of kidney failure.

Crivello's mother was the first to be on home hemodialysis when the program was funded by the state and The Queen's Medical Center in 1995.

"Then she had to uproot," said Crivello. "She started to have failure in other organs."

She sees the dialysis center "as a partnership because of the caring for the community" by St. Francis, Molokai General Hospital and the residents.

Lovely said despite some delays in the project, renovation should be completed by Thanksgiving on a building in downtown Kaunakakai where the facility will be housed.

It will have six dialysis stations capable of serving 12 to 18 patients three days a week.

St. Francis will operate the center and has advertised on Molokai for staffing, she said.

The home dialysis program also will continue as part of St. Francis' service for patients who want that option, Lovely said, noting that about eight or nine presently are on home dialysis.

"Patients are just really happy," Mikami said, "especially caregivers." Although home dialysis is helpful, she said, "it is stress on caregivers."

She said the new facility will include a strong prevention education program.

"That's what the community really wants, to delay the onset of these complications.

"We waited a long time," she said. "It's become a reality."

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