LIHUE — When Dr. Travis Parker began his shift in the emergency room at Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital at 8 a.m. on Monday, it didn’t take long for one of his first calls to come in.
A Kekaha man walked into the emergency room clutching his chest and complaining of pain.
He was dying of a heart attack. And there was no time to wait — he would be dead in minutes, if something wasn’t done quickly to save him.
Critical situations like these, Parker said, happen about 14,000 times each year at Hawaii Health Systems Corporation facilities on Kauai, where critical access medical services are provided at two hospitals and four clinics that rely heavily on state funding.
“It’s amazing quality and an amazing service that patients get,” said Parker, emergency room medical director at Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital and Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital. “I’m shocked at how many times I’m at Mahelona, where we receive a lot of tourists, and I heard from them, ‘Oh wow, this is the best help I’ve ever had.’ It’s a tribute to what we do on very bare bones facilities and budgets.”
That budget, however, is now facing more intense scrutiny as HHSC board members on Kauai seek to address a projected $11 million budget shortfall facing the region by cutting costs and streamlining operations.
Labor costs alone, HHSC Kauai Regional Board Chair Wade Lord said, constitute 96 percent of the costs accrued by the regional arm of the nation’s fourth largest public health care system.
“We cannot live in that world and the difficulty is that we don’t have a way to deal with that problem,” Lord said during a Monday meeting on the topic that’s made headlines recently. “We’re behind the eight ball before we even get started.”
One of the more recent developments that were made public during a state House Committee on Health meeting held in Lihue centered on keeping the Kalaheo Clinic open until the region’s new clinic at The Shops at Kukuiula is ready to open.
That proposal, Interim HHSC Kauai Region CEO Scott McFarland said, has been submitted to the owners of the clinic building.
Exact construction dates and completion dates for the Kukuiula clinic, however, has not been determined yet.
“Given the depth of the financial shortfalls, it is our hope that everyone will support the Kauai Region as we make these difficult decisions and implement the changes that we hope will stabilize the finances of the HHSC Kauai Region,” Lord said. “Our goals and objectives are for a vibrant and stable health care system for all the people of Kauai, providing the needed services to our communities within the financial constraints facing our state community hospital system.”