KAPA’A — Responding to what now appears to be a universal need for emergency-room services in the Kapa’a area, officials at the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital last week opened an emergency room at the Kawaihau Road facility.
As of Monday night, there had been six patients. “Every group I’ve talked to agreed that there is a need for emergency service out here,” said Orianna “Ori” Skomoroch, chief executive officer of the Kaua’i Region of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC), while waiting for guests to show up for a Monday-night community meeting.
For the past several months, Skomoroch has been making public presentations on plans for the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital emergency department that opened its doors at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. Those presentations were to members of the large community groups like the Rotary and Lions clubs.
Llewellyn Wynne, hospital assistant administrator and clinical operations officer at Mahelona, said that, since Saturday, they’ve had six patients utilize the new service being provided by the hospital professionals.
As guests filtered into the auditorium, one patient was being tended to in one of two rooms hospital officials converted into treatment rooms for the emergency department.
One of the nurses was working through trying to balance her medical needs from within the converted area of the hospital, as well as tend to those at the meeting.
“We haven’t exactly put up big signs announcing this service, and we’re pleased that people are coming in,” Wynne said.
Grace Delos Reyes, whose husband is a patient at the hospital’s long-term-care unit, added that, on one day as she was leaving the hospital, she ran into some visitors who were coming back from Anahola with cuts and scratches who were asking about emergency care in the area.
She agreed that there is a need for this type of service in the area, as she pointed out the new service to them.
However, she was concerned about long-term-care facilities, and the apparent lack of action on improving that area before embarking on the emergency service.
One of her concerns is that patients could leave the hospital grounds and wander in the neighborhood.
Herman Chong, the HHSC regional director of facilities,
explained that HHSC leaders are in the process of examining several monitoring systems to keep patients from wandering outside the hospital, but as of now, there is no electronic monitoring system deemed totally effective.
Wynne added that hospital leaders installed new locking mechanisms on the glass entrance door, but Delos Reyes noted that she tried it on one visit, and it didn’t work.
Wynne noted that one of the challenges facing SMMH officials is the open-air design of the facility that was built in 1951.
She explained that most facilities today have a central entrance, which makes it easier for monitoring patients and others.
She assured Delos Reyes that the problem is being addressed, but there is no quick solution.
Outside of this concern, most attendees at the community meeting Monday were intent on learning more about the emergency department service.
Skomoroch explained that, once the ER is up and going, there will be what she described as six “swing beds,” that alternate between acute-care and skilled-nursing-facility beds. However, she said that an evaluation will take place before the beds are opened.
Additionally, she noted that there will be a pharmacist on call, and the hospital professionals will have a limited supply of medications to dispense.
Chong noted that construction on the new emergency room has already started, and should be completed shortly. A lot of the timing depends on their contractor, he said.
But the entry roof-line is already in place, and the configurations for the various rooms are already in place.
As construction continues towards a completed emergency room, the Mahelona emergency department offers what is informally known as a “mid-level” emergency room, which means non-life threatening injuries and illnesses can be treated.
Some examples of these include sore throats, colds and flu accompanied by fever, respiratory infections, asthma attacks, sprains, fractures, deep cuts, severe sunburn, minor burns, migraine headaches, earaches, and small foreign bodies in the eye.
If a patient arrives at the emergency department, and the doctor on duty determines that more intensive service is needed, Mahelona staff members will stabilize the patient and arrange for ambulance transport to the Wilcox Memorial Hospital’s emergency room.
Most of these situations involve life-threatening injuries or illnesses, such as severe abdominal or chest pain, head or spinal injuries, extreme shortness of breath, severe bleeding, sudden loss of consciousness, poisoning, severe allergic reactions, disorientation, and suicidal or homicidal thoughts.
The emergency department is open and staffed with emergency physicians and nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays.
X-ray and laboratory services are also available.
Skomoroch pointed out that, when the emergency room is up and going, the staffing will be done through officials at Sterling Healthcare, who provide the certified staff for Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital at the West Kauai Medical Center in Waimea as well.
Wynne added, “I’m really reassured with the quality of the nurses that were hired. They’re outstanding, and I am very comfortable (with their capabilities) when a patient comes down the hall.”
Patients need not make an appointment, but patients with more serious injuries or illnesses will be tended to first.
Patients seeking the emergency department need to take the driveway which curves around the right, or makai side of the hospital, after entering the grounds by the green-and-white sign on Kawaihau Road.
Construction is taking place on the driver’s left side, and patients may park in the lot next to the construction site and ring the buzzer on the side door.
This is marked with an “Emergency Department” sign, and will be answered by an emergency department staff member.
“We invite you all to come back for the real grand opening when everything is up and going,” Skomoroch said.
- Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org.