LIHUE — Thirty employees in the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., Kauai Region were notified of their pending layoffs on Friday.
“HHSC initiated a reduction in force,” said Missy Keyes-Saiki, HHSC Kauai Region spokeswoman. “We had courtesy meetings with the affected people and formal notifications will be made Aug. 1.”
Rep. Dee Morikawa said she and fellow legislators Derek Kawakami and James Tokioka were notified of the job cuts by an email from an HHSC board member, indicating there would a reduction in force.
Keyes-Saiki said the Kauai region layoffs involve 30 employees — 20 from Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital and West Kauai Clinics, and 10 from Mahelona Memorial Hospital. She said the positions are a combination of full time, part time and temporary.
One employee at the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital told The Garden Island on condition of anonymity that she knew layoffs were going to happen sooner or later as the hospital system had been facing budget shortfalls for years. Still, many were shocked and surprised when it did, the employee said.
“We didn’t think it would be made this way,” the employee said. “This is not just going to affect us individuals, but a lot of us in the hospitals. It’s a very uncomfortable situation that we’re in. As we all know, Mahelona Hospital has been here for many, many years. It takes employees to do the job and keep the hospital what it is. We all need to stay afloat.”
HHSC Kauai Region CEO Peter Klune couldn’t be reached for comment.
The West Kauai Medical Center, including the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital, a hospital outpatient clinic in Port Allen, and a free-standing clinic in Kalaheo with a new clinic scheduled to open at The Shops at Kukuiula, employs 276 people, according to HHSC.
The Mahelona Hospital, including its 24-hour emergency services, employs about 145 people.
Earlier this month, the Oahu region announced plans to cut 64 positions at Leahi Hospital and Maluia as it faces an estimated $3.7 million deficit in fiscal year 2016.
Klune told TGI at the time he wasn’t ruling out workforce reductions for the Kauai region. He said he had been in discussions with the board of directors, physicians, department heads, managers, and employees about the budget.
Kauai faced a roughly $3 million shortfall after the Legislature didn’t appropriate all the requested funds.
The employee expressed concern about privatization of the hospitals.
“It’s been floating around — privatization — but hopefully not for the near future,” she said. “I think that it’s going to happen, sooner or later.”
The employee said union reps are expected to visit Tuesday to discuss employee options.
“You don’t want to bump anybody, but when push comes to shove, you have to do what you have to do,” the employee said. “We just need to wait and see what’s going to happen.”