New Wilcox generators blessed, prepared for emergencies
LIHU‘E — A blessing Thursday marked the end of a project to install three new, one-megawatt generators at the Wilcox Health area behind the ongoing improvements to the emergency department area.
The new power sources are able to provide electricity to Wilcox Medical Center during emergencies and power outages.
“This generator system will provide uninterrupted power for hospital operations at Wilcox Medical Center when needed, and that means a lot to our community considering what Kaua‘i residents have experienced from recent flooding and Hurricane Iniki,” said Jen Chahanovich, president and CEO of Wilcox Medical Center and CEO of Kaua‘i Medical Clinic.
“We are extremely grateful that everyone involved viewed this project as a way to ensure the health, welfare and safety of the people of Kaua‘i. We always want to be prepared for the unexpected, and these generators are essential to caring for our patients when they need us the most,” she said.
The new generators will increase Wilcox’s power capacity in the event of an emergency to the 72-bed medical center, supporting critical and routine hospital operations. The system has the capacity to support future facility expansion.
“When you’re able to be confident that the hospital is going to be there for you, no matter what the situation is, it allows you to focus on taking care of some of the more-immediate problems that you may be trying to deal with in any emergency and worrying about if the hospital is going to be there for you or not is not a concern anymore. It’s huge for everybody here on Kaua‘i,” said state Senate President Ron Kouchi.
The importance of having electrical power was demonstrated during Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992, when the entire island was without electricity. About 20% of the island regained power in about a month, while other parts of the island were without electrical power for an additional two to three months.
“We’re seeing large storms come through,” said Larry Kanda, disaster-mitigation planner for the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency. “Hurricane ‘Iniki was a category three, and Hurricane Douglas in 2019 was a category four. These generators are a high priority for Kaua‘i.”
The project is a collaboration between federal, state and county officials, who worked together to secure the new generators.
Wilcox Medical Center committed to pay $9 million towards the project. The remaining funding is the result of a partnership with the HIEMA that allowed Wilcox the opportunity to apply for and receive a $4-million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program.
“I’m just impressed in the partnership how Wilcox raised so much of the money privately, partnered with HIEMA to get some money from the state, and then, with the older generators, to donate it to the County of Kaua‘i, just shows an incredible synergy here on Kaua‘i, and how the community continually comes together and works together to ensure the best outcomes for the people of Kaua‘i,” Kouchi said.
Wilcox donated the two retired generators to the county’s Department of Public Works in May 2021. Plans are in the works for the generators to be used by the DPW Wastewater Management Division to help add a level of reliability to its operations.
“With the fuel tank and these three new generators, the system will power this hospital for five days, and I can tell you, any mayor would be beyond the moon to be able to know that they have that sort of reliability on such a small island,” said Mayor Derek Kawakami.
“This is a huge impact and, again, I have to thank Hawai‘i Pacific Health and Wilcox Hospital for the generosity to the people of Kaua‘i. These generators are going to be used for emergency generators for a wastewater-treatment plant. As I said before, when we have storms and we have power outages, if we have anything going wrong at the plants, these generators will be very mobile,” said Kawakami.
The long-term investment in electric technology coincides with another facility upgrade of Wilcox’s Emergency Department that was financed through a successful fundraising campaign by the Wilcox Health Foundation.
Wilcox is Kaua‘i’s only level three trauma center, and was the first of any neighbor island medical center to achieve that designation.
Wilcox is also Hawai‘i’s first level three trauma center to be verified by the American College of Surgeons. The Wilcox Emergency Department averages 25,000 visits annually, and 450 trauma activations in a year.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.