Abercrombie asks Legislature to consider funding Kauai hospitals

LIHUE — Gov. Neil Abercrombie asked legislators Tuesday to consider a bill that would provide emergency funding for Kauai’s two public hospitals when the Legislature convenes for a special session on same-sex marriage next week.  

The request comes less than a week before the House and Senate are set to begin talks and at a time when Hawaii Health Systems Corporation officials are working to ease financial woes across the state public hospital system.

In all, HHSC, the fourth-largest public health system in the nation, oversees 12 community hospitals, including Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waimea and Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital in Kapaa.

HHSC spokesman Miles Takaaze said the proposed legislation would provide the public health system with $2.5 million to pay off pending obligations, including collective bargaining raises that were instituted during the last legislative session but not fully funded.

“Having the governor review and give us consideration is significant,” Takaaze said. “All the regions are having a challenging time right now. We have older facilities, there’s federal health care reform and there’s been reduction in Medicare and government payors.”

Another challenge, he said, is the need to maintain the health system’s critical access hospitals, which are limited in services that generate sufficient revenue.  

If the Legislature votes down the measure, Takaaze said HHSC officials will consider other options, such as inter-regional loans.

But this isn’t the first time HHSC has needed some extra help.

About two months ago, HHSC officials announced they would seek about $14 million in emergency appropriations next year to upgrade the public health system’s technology infrastructure and offset declining reimbursements.

In 2008, the Legislature appropriated $14 million in emergency funds to HHSC to offset a $40 million shortfall for the 2008 fiscal year and a $62 million deficit projected for the following fiscal year.  

State Rep. Dee Morikawa said she was briefed about the financial troubles facing Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital several months ago and was told, at the time, that situation could be resolved internally and held off until next year.

But that no longer seems to be the case, she said.

“We’re lucky that the special session is happening so we can address that,” Morikawa said.

In addition to the proposed emergency funding legislation, Abercrombie has also asked the Legislature to consider a revised Marriage Equity Bill along with two other bills that deal with collective bargaining agreements with United Public Workers Unit 10 and Hawaii Government Employees Association Unit 13.


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