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• Workers’ comp care could become a Kaua‘i crisis
Workers’ comp care could become a Kaua‘i crisis
Hawai‘i’s reputation as a state with one of the worst business climates in the United States sometimes comes back to bite Kaua‘i especially hard.
Currently up in the air is a decision by Wilcox Health to do away with services for workers compensation claims. One doctor, who has left Wilcox, is requesting that patients with workers comp claims fly to his office in Honolulu for an initial visit, with the possibility of being treated on Kaua‘i during subsequent visits as part of his solution to this issue.
State officials have told The Garden Island they receive upwards of 1600 workers compensation claims each year, with about an equal number of cases already open also being worked on each month.
With those high numbers, cutting out workers compensation claim services could create a crisis for workers and a financial nightmare for businesses on Kaua‘i. We’ve heard a recent report that it took a worker almost six months to have a procedure performed by a Kaua‘i doctor in regards to a workers comp ailment. And that’s with the current system in place. Having an injured worker on hold due to lack of expedient medical services could put enormous strains on the financial resources of a business, both due to costs and loss of employees key to operations. Reasonably fast medical treatment of an injured worker and a streamlined bureaucratic claim systems are the least both an employee and an employer should expect from the largest health care provider on our island. If in place, these two items would be the ideal solution to this problem.
But, don’t count on a fast solution from our state government. The 2005 session of the Legislature put off reform for another year, killing new workers’ compensation rules this week that would have helped the system, but would have done little to solve Kaua‘i solve the problem.
On O‘ahu Straub Clinic is choosing to stop accepting work comp patients as a business decision and Wilcox Health is now considering it, too. It’s obvious that O‘ahu has a much larger population then Kaua‘i, with a wide variety of medial providers. Here on Kaua‘i, a decision like that will hurt Kauai’s workers and businesses.
That the system needs reform is stating the obvious, and perhaps our legislators have missed that point.
It is a sure thing that if workers compensation medical services are cut, and legislative reform continues to linger, we are headed for a crisis in this area on Kaua‘i.
When The Garden Island contacted Wilcox Health on Friday to get an update on this issue, we were told by spokeswoman Lani Yukimura: “We are still talking about the workers compensation issue and no final decision has been made. Discussions with physicians and the state Department of Labor are ongoing and like all healthcare providers, we continually reassess various programs such as workers comp.
Until Wilcox has made a decision there’s really nothing to report at this time, and we also don’t want to mislead the community with wrong information or create cause for undue concern. When we do come to a decision, I’ll be in touch.”
This issue effects every business on Kaua‘i, and the fact that our largest health care provide is “talking about” not accepting work comp patients we think is an important story, one that deserves front page coverage. Business owners and workers on Kaua‘i should call the hospital and urge them to continue to accept workers’ comp patients.
According to earlier reports, this change could go into effect as early as August 1. We think Wilcox Health needs to hear the opinion of the island, it’s businesses and their customers, it’s workers, it’s residents — and before they’ve reached a decision, not after.
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