Maui Health System plans to establish urgent care center in West Maui this yearFebruary 6, 2020
LAHAINA - Maui Health System (MHS) Chief Strategy Officer Jim Diegel said the organization is committed to establishing a presence in West Maui this year, with future plans that include a 24-hour Emergency Department.
MHS, which manages community hospitals and clinics affiliated with Kaiser Permanente, envisions some form of an urgent care center with extended hours in West Maui.
The facility will be staffed by physicians who are board-certified in Emergency Medicine or Primary Care.
"We will, either in partnership with existing players on the West Side or maybe by ourselves, we will have a presence by the end of 2020," Diegel announced at the West Maui Taxpayers Association's Annual Meeting on Jan. 8.
Several years in the future, MHS' second strategic step will be to establish a free-standing, full-service Emergency Department that's operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"So we believe that the future here for West Maui, absent a full-service hospital, which are very expensive to build and operate... we think that solution is a 24/7 free-standing E.D.," Diegel explained.
"That will take a little bit of time to put together; we would need to determine where such a facility would need to be sited and go through the appropriate Certificate of Need requests, and then there are sizable capital investments involved with that."
A MHS analysis estimated it would cost a minimum of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000 just to build and prepare the facility.
Based on the size of the West Maui community and reduced volume at the existing Emergency Department at Maui Memorial Medical Center, MHS' preliminary estimates project an operating loss of around $2,000,000 per year, Diegel said.
Funding and multi-stakeholder partnership options will be explored, and community engagement will be essential to the process, he added.
Even with donated land, plans for the West Maui Hospital and Medical Center have stalled. Diegel said it's unfortunate that plans for the critical-access hospital in Kaanapali didn't move forward.
Many small rural hospitals across the U.S. are closing, and many are converting into free-standing Emergency Departments, Diegel said.
These facilities receive patients and stabilize them. They typically have the ability to hold a patient for 24-48 hours before discharging them or transferring them to a full-service hospital.
Diegel has attended community forums with MHS CEO and Hospital Administrator Michael Rembis.
Residents have repeatedly voiced concerns about traffic and access to healthcare on the West Side.
"We have heard over the last many months... specifically your journey to improved access to healthcare and services that you need here on the West Side," he said.
"I have now experienced what it's like to be in gridlock coming across 30 (Honoapiilani Highway), both ways... and we've heard story after story of really the inability to access the appropriate care that we need here on West Maui."
Recognizing that emergency transit can be an issue, MHS has taken steps to improve helicopter transportation from West Maui to Maui Memorial Medical Center.
The helicopter won't fly at night because there is an unlit radio tower in its departure path about 800 feet from the hospital.
MHS is working with American Cellular Tower to install lights on the 186-foot-high tower.
Once it's lit, the Federal Aviation Administration and Air Traffic Control will approve night flights to and from the hospital's helipad.
Diegel asked West Maui residents to recommend sites in West Maui where the helicopter can land to pick up patients.
WEST MAUI HOSPITAL SYNOPSIS- A SHORT HISTORY OF WMTA AND WMIF EFFORTS TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO EMERGENCY HEALTH CARE IN WEST MAUI.
West Maui Improvement Foundation Inc. (WMIF) in conjunction with the West Maui Taxpayer's Association Inc.(WMTA), has been diligently striving to educate our major stakeholder's in West Maui and Government Officials about the need to improved access to critical health care services to West Maui. Neither organization receives any grants in aid from the government and exists solely on private donations and volunteer services.
The non-profit charity, WMIF, successfully raised funds to develop a Fire and Ambulance Station in West Maui with private funds and no taxpayer dollars or government funds in 1999. That had never been done anywhere in the State of Hawaii before nor since. The Napili Fire and Ambulance Station was completed and turned over to the County of Maui to staff and operate since then and it’s ambulance and fire crews have literally saved lives which otherwise would have been lost. That is undisputed.
After that success the board members of the WMIF were persuaded that more was needed. The community voices convinced our volunteer board members to embark on a feasibility study for the need of ambulance delivery of patients to Emergency Medical Service 24/7 within the golden hour with a physical location here in West Maui.
While the board of directors of the WMTA and WMIF are volunteers who serve without pay, their existence as nonprofits; to be operationally viable, depends upon necessary financial support to pay for essential administrative, accounting, special outside contractors/consultants, and other operational and basic office expenses. Neither organization has any “employees.”
Over the past 20 years, the effort to obtain a certificate of need and everything essential to have access to Emergency Medical Services has had series of wins and losses no one could have imagined or predicted. We obtained the Certificate of Need in 2009 which everyone said would be impossible and had a donated 15 acre hospital site lost due to a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling disallowing previously approved permanent easement entry for ingress/egress on “ceded lands,” necessary for final subdivision entitlement and access to the site. That essentially eliminated the financial feasibility of our West Maui Hospital and Medical Center and it seemed all was lost. It was a devastating blow to our mission and literally destroyed plans and expectations for everyone who were in shock that such an unexpected event could destroy our plans and dreams.
The Board of the WMIF decided to see if it was possible for any remedy to restore the use of the donated site. The result was that it was not possible and many supporters abandoned their hope and support. Making matters worse, at approximately the same time, the nation suffered one of the worst financial disasters in U.S. history. Banks went bankrupt as well as nearly all of the major U.S. financial Industries and our largest corporations. The US Government, bailed out the banks and our large corporations like General Motors, but not any non profits like the WMTA or WMIF.
Around that same time, while most everyone suffered financial losses and determined that they could no longer financially support the WMIF’s missions for a West Maui Hospital, the Diane Lynn Family Foundation, Inc. came to the rescue with a donation of financial life support and renewed our hope for searching for alternatives. While President, Joseph Pluta, had personally devoted thousands of hours to the cause in the prior 10 years, and over $100K of his personal funds, the challenges to move forward with alternatives seemed nearly insurmountable.
For the last 10 years or so, the WMIF has been able to keep the doors open and our effort alive, albeit severely challenged, striving for implementation of alternatives towards access for essential life saving medical services located here in West Maui.
The WMIF has endured and surmounted seen and unforeseen political challenges; which brought about the change of ownership and operations of the State Owned Maui Memorial Hospital to private ownership by Kaiser Inc. and creation of Maui Health Systems LLC. It’s unique and the only one of it’s kind in the entire Kaiser System.
We were able to continue our effort albeit with reduced staff and resources, to get another land parcel subdivided and entitled for discounted purchase for the West Maui Hospital Developer below the Kaanapali Coffee Farms.
Even though the developer of the West Maui Hospital, Brian Hoyle and Newport Hospital Inc., has approved building permits, he announced at a recent Kaanapali 2020 Community Planning Group meeting, that he was unable to obtain the financing he wanted for developing the West Maui Hospital and was instead considering moving forward without it and replacing it’s location with independent living facilities instead. He said that he was considering maintaining plans for the skilled nursing facility, assisted living facility and a drug and alcohol treatment center. While he said that this was not “an official announcement,” that’s where he was headed and something official would be forthcoming.
The WMIF has also been working with a group of cancer docs who had opened a cancer treatment facility on Kauai and wanted to open one in West Maui Also. Over the past 4 years, they have purchased a lot in Lahaina Business Park for the Cancer Treatment Center and prepared to submit an Application for a Certificate of Need for which WMIF has been of assistance.
The WMTA-WMIF has been in discussions with Michael Rembis, CEO of Maui Health System’s Maui Memorial Hospital, regarding WMIF assisting them to develop an Emergency Medical Room 24/7 supplemented with an urgent care component and some critical access beds as well as a helicopter station.
Along those lines, the WMIF, would be the community partner with Maui Health Systems, for developmental entitlements and financial support.
They believe that the WMIF is essential to this effort to add credibility that the efforts and financial support would not be suspect with their Wailuku facility at Maui Memorial and solely dedicated to the West Maui facility.
We have been informed that the Board of the Maui Health Systems will be committed to the West Maui Effort and have been analyzing a number of different scenarios on moving forward. One is purchasing an Existing West Maui Urgent Care Facility and remodeling it for Emergency Room Operations as well as finding land for purchase for a brand new developed facility with room for future expansion. We understand that the WMIF will be called upon for more meetings and assistance by the Maui Health Systems Development Team. We are looking forward to these discussions and welcome the renewed hope their commitment has restored in us all.
Joseph D. Pluta, President
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