Mahelona emergency room opens today

Beginning today, Saturday, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m., and continuing until further notice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, medical professionals at Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital (SMMH) are in the emergency-medicine business.

The firstever Mahelona emergency room opens today, with a board-certified, emergency room physician on duty 24 hours a day, and registered emergency room nurses on duty 24 hours a day as well, said Llewellyn Wynne, hospital assistant administrator and clinical operations officer.

The move is to better serve residents from Ha’ena to Wailua, and visitors in those areas, and is a pre-cursor for Mahelona receiving a federal, critical-access-hospital (CAH) designation, she said.

A series of approvals need to be won before the CAH designation is awarded, and officials at the state Department of Health have already given their approval, Wynne explained.

Members of a team of surveyors will also examine the hospital before the CAH designation is granted.

More information on both the opening of the emergency room and the CAH process, will be explained during a public meeting Monday, Dec. 12, at 5:30 p.m. in the hospital’s auditorium.

Wynne is excited about what the establishment of an emergency room means to those on the Eastside and North Shore, she said.

It shows a willingness to better — serve patients in those areas. Officials at Wilcox Memorial Hospital are supportive of the new venture because staff members in the Wilcox Memorial Hospital emergency room has been very busy, she added.

The new, mid-level-service emergency room staff members at SMMH will offer treatment of non-life-threatening illnesses, injuries and conditions, but they obviously wouldn’t turn away someone with a serious illness or injury, she said.

Normally, the professional staff would act quickly to stabilize the patient in that situation, then arrange for transport to Wilcox Memorial Hospital, Wynne said.

For example, a patient coming in to the SMMH with a near-fatal heart attack would be treated and stabilized, then advised to accept ambulance transfer to Wilcox for further care, she said.

As another example, victims of a traffic accident with injuries in Anahola, on the North Shore or in Kapahi now could be brought to the SMMH emergency room for treatment and stabilization before being taken to Wilcox, Wynne said.

Six experienced emergency-room nurses have been hired. The emergency-room doctors are locums (from “locum tenens,” a chiefly British term meaning “substitute physician” or “substitute clergyman”), hired by leaders of the same company who supply emergency-room doctors to Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital at the West Kauai Medical Center in Waimea.

Meetings have been scheduled with American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance leaders, to let them know of the opening of the SMMH emergency room, she continued.

Both SMMH and KVMH are part of the nonprofit Hawaii Health Systems Corporation. Orianna “Ori” Skomoroch is HHSC Kauai Region chief executive officer.

The CAH designation is a federal designation that allows operators of rural hospitals to get some federal reimbursement for services rendered, normally leading to even better care for those in the communities they serve, Wynne explained.

Members of the SHHM and HHSC management team have attended a number of meetings with members of community organizations, and held an earlier public meeting to discuss the services and answer questions, Wynne said.

The emergency room telephone number is 823-4194.

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