Wilcox resolution stalls – Clinic chief not talking

A Senate resolution requesting Kaua‘i hearings on the 2001 merger of Wilcox Health and Hawai‘i Pacific Health might not make it out of the Legislature before the session ends May 1, said state Sen. Gary Hooser.

Hooser, D-Kaua‘i/Ni‘ihau, co-authored Senate Concurrent Resolution 170, which requests an inquiry into whether Wilcox Health has ensured access to all patients regardless of their ability to pay.

The resolution, catalyzed in part by a 126-day nurses strike last year, made its way through the Senate Health Committee and the Senate floor but is not yet scheduled in the House.

Hooser said he will pursue an independent review to obtain answers to residents’ questions regardless of the resolution’s outcome. He has already met with the state Attorney General, Kaua‘i’s three state representatives and the chair of the House Health Committee to consider a task force or similarly structured process sometime this year.

Hooser said allegations that services to the needy have been reduced since the merger are “fairly serious,” and welcomed parties on both sides to engage in a public forum on the issue. He also said that the inquiry would not threaten the continuity of service at Wilcox.

“Under no circumstances would the state take any action to facilitate the closing of the hospital,” Hooser said.

Kenneth Pierce, chief executive officer and president of Kauai Medical Center, resigned Monday, though he will remain at his post until April 30, said Wilcox spokeswoman Lani Yukimura.

Yukimura said Monday, Pierce’s resignation is not related to the resolution.

Together Kauai Medical Center and Wilcox Memorial Hospital comprise Wilcox Health.

Early yesterday morning, a hospital board member received a call suggesting that Pierce had in fact been fired and escorted out of the building, Yukimura said. The Garden Island received a similar message.

“That is a terrible rumor, and it is absolutely not true,” Yukimura said, noting that Pierce will remain in place through the end of the week.

Yukimura said discussion on filling the position has already begun and the hospital has scheduled meetings with its doctors this week to determine a replacement.

An announcement should follow within a few days, she said.

Pierce has yet to state a reason for his departure and has not responded to requests for an interview over the last two days.

A former emergency-room physician, Pierce was promoted to chief executive officer in September 2005 after more than seven months as chief medical officer.

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