Reprieve for Kalaheo Clinic

KALAHEO — Kalaheo Clinic will remain open, at least for the next six months, while Hawaii Health Systems Corporation officials explore options to upright operations at the island’s two public hospitals and four clinics. 

”We need to take a broad look at the entire island’s public health care system, and although I’m on the board, it doesn’t take an MBA (master of business administration) to look at the financials and see that we’re in terrible straits,” HHSC Kauai Region Board Member Dennis Rowley told the two dozen people who attended a community meeting this week at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center. 

Though the announcement came as a small reprieve for some Kalaheo Clinic patients and employees, regional officials within the public health care system say their decisions to stabilize finances on Kauai will not be easy ones.

”I’d like for you to think for just a moment about the fact that you might be standing up here were I am and faced to make decisions that are going to impact the lives of our friends and neighbors,” Rowley told the crowd.

In the meantime, HHSC Kauai Regional Chief Operations Officer Freddie Woodard said he and other officials will examine clinics, hospital operations and other services.

The key to keeping the Kalaheo Clinic open and increasing revenue, Woodward said, is simple: use the facility more. About 8,000 to 9,000 people on average visit the Kalaheo Clinic each year, he added.

But Kalaheo resident Jeff Tucker said he is worried that the public health care system’s financial woes are taking a toll on employee morale and could, in turn, hurt the clinic’s patient numbers.

“To have these people in this constant state of fear is not the way to run a business,” Tucker told Rep. Daynette “Dee” Morikawa, who attended the meeting. “I mean, who wants to be involved with a business like that.”

Woodard also defended the decision by regional HHSC officials to move forward with plans for a new clinic in the Shops at Kukuiula. Those plans, he said, have been in the works for about three to four years and began at a time when the state’s public health care system was in a different financial position. 

During the next six months that the Kalaheo Clinic will remain open, Woodard said HHSC officials “will be assessing the viability of Kukuiula and what it will take in trying to move forward.”

Interim HHSC Kauai Region CEO Scott McFarland said the region will continue to “ensure that people on the island have access to care when they need it.” 

”We’ve got the adequate resources to figure this out — we just have to change the way we’ve oriented ourselves,” McFarland said. 

Regional officials, McFarland said, are also looking at ways to create a public-private partnership model with Wilcox Memorial Hospital that would allow HHSC to share services with the not-for-profit health care provider.

”We can no longer compete with Wilcox — it makes no sense for us, as HHSC, to do so,” McFarland said. “We need to complement each other and align in a way that exceeds the community’s expectations.” 

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