State weighs adult daycare sale, continues investigation

Ohana Pacific Foundation moved forward on its proposal to purchase Wilcox Memorial Hospital’s adult day health service yesterday, telling state officials that the transaction would not bring significant change to the only Kaua‘i program providing daytime care for seniors who live at home.

“The current clients will remain unaffected,” Kurt Akamine, director of the company, which specializes in caring for seniors, said at a public hearing attended by residents and health workers.

State Health Planning and Development Agency officials will determine whether to approve the Ohana proposal, which comes as the state investigates the controversial 2001 merger of seller Wilcox-Hawai‘i Pacific Health.

Under the proposed plan, the approximately 40-client program would continue to operate at the Lihu‘e Christian Church location, charge similar fees and retain current staff, Akamine said.

The hearing drew opponents whose criticism of the $200,000 deal had little to do with Ohana and more to do with the history of the Wilcox-HPH merger and an eroded confidence in the process that saw its approval.

Critics of the merger say that the conditions approved by the state did not materialize, largely due to flawed financial projections. They catalyzed a state investigation currently underway in both the Attorney General and SHPDA offices.

That investigation could affect the conditions under which Wilcox operates, making the sale of assets untimely, said Walt Barnes, a member of Concerned Citizens for Kaua‘i’s Healthcare Future, a group that pushed for the state investigations.

“We might be creating many more difficulties that we have to unwind,” he said.

The 2001 merger called for assurance that access to care would remain the same at the then 181-bed hospital.

In 2004 the state approved the hospital’s sale of its 110-bed long-term adult care unit to Ohana’s Garden Isle Healthcare LLC, a $2.5 million deal that cut Wilcox’s capacity by more than half.

Ohana currently operates the 109-bed Garden Isle Healthcare and 84-bed Hale Kupuna Heritage Home on Kaua‘i, as well as an adult day health program and two long-term care facilities on O‘ahu.

A sale would put the 33-year-old program into experienced hands, said Lani Yukimura, spokeswoman for the hospital.

“We were looking for a business that had experience in taking care of the elderly,” she said. “Part of the beauty is the continuum of care.”

The program, housed alongside a preschool at Lihu‘e Christian Church, provides a daytime haven for seniors living with caretakers who work, as well as a segue for seniors who may be moving into or out of a 24-hour facility, she said.

The program employs seven staff members and is licensed to serve 50 clients, though it averages about 40 clients daily, said Caryn Sakahashi, director of the program.

Clients pay between $52 and $60 a day for care, Sakahashi said, and Ohana isn’t expecting a big jump.

“The fee structure has to be at a level where the program would be financially viable,” Akamine said. “It hinges on the census. It needs to be looked at once we acquire the program.”

The census, or number of clients, has been rising, Sakahashi told state officials.

David Sakamoto, SHPDA director, requested models of the impact the census could have on the price of care.

• Charlotte Woolard, business writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or cwoolard@kauaipubco.com.

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