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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, August 18, 2007

Big new dialysis clinic opens on Maui

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Helen Domingo, a nurse who works with Maui dialysis patients, says this new Wailuku facility will be more comfortable for patients, whose treatments in some cases last more than five hours.

CHRISTIE WILSON | The Honolulu Advertiser

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WAILUKU, Maui Carol Vigilla is looking forward to her next dialysis appointment for once.

Vigilla, 50, suffered kidney failure and began treatment five years ago, and on Monday, she'll report to Liberty Dialysis-Hawaii's new Maui Dialysis Facility in Wailuku. The 16,000-square-foot clinic features 48 dialysis stations equipped with the latest micropurifiers and individual LCD televisions so patients can relax while undergoing procedures that can last three to five hours.

"This is awesome. It's just like having a brand-new car. It's more spacious and it looks nice," Vigilla said Thursday during the official blessing of the facility, at 105 Maui Lani Parkway.

Registered nurse Helen Domingo, who has worked with Maui dialysis patients for 17 years, said she is happy they will have more comfortable surroundings.

"The patients are like family. I'm really attached to them," she said.

Dialysis is necessary when people lose 85 percent to 90 percent of kidney function, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Like healthy kidneys, dialysis removes waste, salt and extra water from the body, keeps a safe level of potassium, sodium and other chemicals in the blood, and helps control blood pressure.

Patients like Vigilla who need dialysis three times a week have been going to a much smaller 20-station unit near the Maui Memorial Medical Center and a temporary six-station facility at another location that were serving a total of 180 residents and 30 visitors per month.

Patients had to travel to another part of Wailuku to see their doctors or to get preventive care, therapy and counseling at the Chronic Kidney Disease Clinic, operated by the Pacific Renal Care Foundation.

Now all those services are under one roof at the new Maui Dialysis Facility.

"What it's done is put us on a level with Mainland care," said Dr. Jim Jones, a nephrologist, or kidney specialist, who will be working out of the new center. "We've had an old, small facility in need of complete renovation, and we've gone from not having enough to beyond what we need," he said.

The larger space means tourists who need regular dialysis no longer have to worry about finding available stations on Maui, Jones said.

The new facility also shows that private, for-profit groups can respond to the community's medical needs if given a chance, he said.

Liberty Dialysis is a business based in Mercer Island, Wash., with 60 facilities in 11 states. The Hawai'i affiliate also operates a seven-station clinic in Kahana on Maui and a six-chair clinic in Kaunakakai, Moloka'i, as well as a statewide home dialysis program, and outpatient dialysis clinics in Honolulu, 'Ewa Beach and Wai'anae, in Hilo and Kona on the Big Island, and in Lihu'e and Waimea on Kaua'i.

Liberty Dialysis' chief executive, Mark Caputo, said the company last month opened a clinic in Waimea on the Big Island at a facility formerly operated by North Hawai'i Community Hospital, and later this year will open a clinic in Kaimuki on O'ahu.

The new Maui facility is its largest Neighbor Island operation.

The company took over Maui operations from the St. Francis Healthcare System, which opened a five-station unit on the grounds of Maui Memorial Medical Center in 1975. In 1988, St. Francis expanded to a 4,000-square-foot center with 10 stations, and added 10 more stations over the years.

St. Francis secured two state grants of $750,000 each for the new facility and held groundbreaking ceremonies in 2005.

In January 2006, St. Francis Healthcare System transferred the majority ownership of its statewide renal dialysis program to Liberty Dialysis-Hawaii and a local group of physicians.

Melissa Souza is regional director of Maui County clinics.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.