State sues to enforce
Kuakini subpoena

The attorney general’s office wants
to see an outside study of the health
system’s morale

The state attorney general sued Thursday to enforce a subpoena for information it has been unsuccessful in obtaining from Kuakini Health System.

The lawsuit, filed in state Circuit Court, relates to a critical physician satisfaction survey and report that the attorney general's office wants to examine as part of its ongoing investigation into the organization.

The results of a previous survey, conducted last spring on behalf of physicians, as well as lawsuits and complaints from staff, prompted the attorney general's office to begin an investigation into Kuakini in July 2003. The three lawsuits relating to various disagreements with the system were filed by physicians Robert Oishi and Andrew Oishi, who are not related.

The attorney general's investigation included allegations that the boards of directors of the parent organization, Kuakini Health System, and Kuakini Medical Center allowed their chief executive officer, Gary Kajiwara, to micromanage the organization. That led to the wasting of millions of dollars on programs or acquisitions, inadequate planning and staff input, poor morale, the departure of skilled nursing staff and ultimately jeopardized the quality of patient care, according to some staff and doctors.

There were also allegations that those on staff who complained faced retaliation.

In response to the survey, conducted by SMS Research, and the subsequent attorney general's investigation, the board of directors at Kuakini hired consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide to conduct its own study.

Physicians were invited to participate in focus groups conducted by the firm. Its findings were disclosed to a blue ribbon panel of physicians, which had been appointed by Kuakini's board.

The findings were later disclosed to members of the medical staff at a special meeting Jan. 12 after the blue ribbon panel said the problems documented in the Watson Wyatt survey needed to be acknowledged by the board and revealed to the medical staff.

A letter sent from the panel to Kuakini's board concluded: "If this is not done, then we will assume that the board did not undertake this mission in good faith and that this whole process was simply a whitewash."

In denying the attorney general's request for a copy of the latest survey findings, Kuakini said that the law firm representing it in the doctor lawsuits, Watanabe Ing Kawashima & Komeiji, had also retained Watson Wyatt in connection with those suits. Because of that relationship, the survey results and focus group information is subject to attorney-client privilege, according to Kuakini.

Hugh Jones, the state deputy attorney general who filed the complaint and has been conducting the investigation, said if Kuakini has nothing to hide, it should provide the Watson Wyatt report.

"Their administration denied the existence of a serious problem and if that's true, the administration should have absolutely no problem making public the results of the Watson Wyatt report," Jones said.

A Kuakini representative said the company had not received a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment on its contents.

A date for a court hearing on enforcing the subpoena has not been set.


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