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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 4, 2006

Second state panel says no to Maui hospital plan

Associated Press

A second state advisory panel yesterday voted to reject an application for a new hospital on Maui, delivering a blow to an effort endorsed by Gov. Linda Lingle and the island's mayor.

Dr. David Sakamoto, head of the State Health Planning and Development Agency, will make the final decision on the application to build Malulani Health and Medical Center.

The leader of the effort to build Malulani, Dr. Ron Kwon, said he was optimistic Sakamoto would approve the hospital's application regardless of the panel's vote.

Members of the Statewide Health Coordinating Council yesterday said they weren't convinced Maui needs the new facility.

They also expressed doubt the hospital would be able to hire enough doctors and nurses to provide the care it plans to offer.

Malulani, which backers hope to build in Kihei, would compete with the only existing acute-care medical facility on the Valley Isle, the state-subsidized Maui Memorial Medical Center.

The facility's supporters say one out of eight Maui residents currently leaves the island for medical care, showing Malulani is badly needed.

Seven council members voted to disapprove Malulani's application while three abstained.

With yesterday's vote, two state panels have recommended the state not allow Malulani to be built. One panel voted in favor of it: the Tri-isle Subarea Planning Council made up of people from Maui County.

Malulani has some powerful backers. Maui Mayor Arakawa has vocally supported the hospital, flying to Honolulu last month to testify on the facility's behalf.

Gov. Linda Lingle, who was Maui's mayor for eight years and a Maui County Council member for 10 years, felt so strongly Malulani should be built that she appeared before a state advisory body last week. Lingle does not have the power to override Sakamoto's decision.