Guest Viewpoint – Downs: HPH affiliation has been a ‘godsend’

I will make no attempt to respond point by point to Mr. Walt Barnes’ “For Better Health Care” testimony. I do have some points of my own:

When Wilcox agreed to its affiliation with HPH, it was clear to the administrators, and it was made clear to the medical staff, that Wilcox Hospital might no longer survive, much less grow, as a quaint rural institution. On a good year we could hang in there financially, but there was no buffer for a tough year, whatever might cause that. By affiliating with a larger health care system there would be that buffer and we could thereby sidestep the fear of catastrophic collapse. The medical staff was warned in advance that by achieving such an affiliation we would be losing “local control,” and indeed we’ve at times experienced what that can specifically entail. For some that has been intolerable and has created great bitterness.

At any rate, after a search of alternatives, HPH was chosen to be that affiliate, and we at Wilcox Health are very proud of the hospitals that we are affiliated with (Kapiolani, Straub and Pali Momi). If the affiliation fails, I imagine the most likely ensuing affiliation would be with the state. Maybe that would be OK, since KVMH and Mahelona seem to enjoy an apparently limitless influx of support funding. But I have also been hearing about Kahuku Hospital and the hoops they have to perpetually jump through, so I myself am not that excited about a state affiliation.

Having worked in the Wilcox ER for 35 years, 30 of them as a full-time ER physician, I can report that the affiliation with HPH has been a godsend to the ER care of our Kaua‘i patients. Because of the affiliation we have been able to acquire fabulous new X-ray equipment (new generation MRI and CT scanner) which in case after case has helped us properly evaluate and treat our patients. These pieces of equipment cost millions and millions of dollars and there is no way our friendly rural Wilcox Hospital could have afforded them. We are also well on our way to achieving a $35 million electronic medical records system, and every physician practicing in our hospital can tell you about how this has helped their patient care, even though the learning curve hasn’t always been pleasant for some of us old-timers! Also, we now boast the finest surgery suites in the state, again at a cost of many millions.

I am very sad about the physicians (and nurses and administrators) who have left in the midst of all this. Many were my dear friends. Some retired; some found “greener pastures;” and some indeed left with much bitterness towards one aspect or another of the affiliation. We have been able to recruit fine physicians (and nurses and administrators) in replacement, including two very sharp, young, highly trained ER physicians who have been able to keep me updated on some great new life-saving technologies that are now available in our ER itself, including a bedside ultrasound machine.

SHPDA has re-reviewed the affiliation and to the best of my knowledge they have not found cause for complaint or concern. I’m not quite sure what it is the Legislature is being asked to do, but I hope that they don’t do it and that they allow HPH and Wilcox to continue to grow towards providing ever improved health care for Kaua‘i and her peoples.

• Dr. Monty Downs is an E.R. physician at Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

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