Waimanalo clinic investigates charges
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer
WAIMANALO Amid continued allegations about misuse of money and mismanagement, the executive director of the Waimanalo Health Center has been placed on leave without pay while the center's board investigates the charges.
Allegations against Kawahine Kamakea-Ohelo, one of the founding members of the center 10 years ago, were presented to the board of directors Dec. 5, and it was decided then to replace her with Dr. Charman Akina, the center's medical director, said board president Peter Kama.
Kamakea-Ohelo was not available for comment yesterday.
The state Department of Health said yesterday that it had received an anonymous letter charging the center with billing irregularities in May, but found no wrongdoing. John Yamauchi, with the Family Health Services Division, said a copy of a bill was given to the health department, which contracts services from the center.
The Waimanalo Health Center has served the community for 10 years and Kamakea-Ohelo was there when it began with a staff of three, serving 28 patients on an $88,000 budget. It now has a staff of 52, with a $3.2 million budget, serving about 4,000 people.
The facility is aligned with other services, making it a one-stop shop for residents, who can get emergency food, outreach services, child care, health education and counseling.
Kamakea-Ohelo was instrumental in consolidating the services at the center.
Akina, now interim executive director, and Kama held a press conference at the center yesterday and responded to allegations made by Sen. Fred Hemmings on Sunday.
Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo), said the abrupt firing of the center's diabetes case manager left Waimanalo residents without critical services and that Kamakea-Ohelo's personal use of center money left the center unable to pay for essential treatments.
"Waimanalo residents were never left without critical services," said Kama.
He would not comment further about the board's investigation into Kamakea-Ohelo's actions, but promised to share the result of the investigation when it is completed.
"At no time did a lack of monies force any Waimanalo Health Care provider to not perform his or her duties and responsibilities to a patient," Akina said.
Akina also said that it is doctors and nurse practitioners who provide services, not the case managers.
Other personnel would fill in as needed to assure the delivery of quality health care, he said.
However, Hemmings said yesterday that he stands by his statements and believes that an investigation will prove them.
"They have weaved a web of deception to cover up this mismanagement and abuse that has been going on," Hemmings said after the press conference, which he attended.
He said he has turned over documents that could prove his case to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Investigators there could not be reached for comment.
Hemmings said that because the facility is publicly funded it should be held accountable and the information shouldn't be kept a secret from the public.
He said the situation "imperils the health and safety of the people of Waimanalo. This isn't confidential business. It's not a private corporation."
Kama said Hemmings' allegations had upset the staff because it felt its ability to perform its duties was under fire.
Reach Eloise Aguiar at email@example.com or 234-5266.