Legislature approves $950,000 to keep Kahuku Hospital open
Read up on the latest happenings in the Legislature, find out how to contact your lawmakers, and explore other resources.
By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dan Nakaso
A bill that would provide $950,000 to keep Kahuku Hospital temporarily operating is headed to Gov. Linda Lingle after it cleared the House yesterday.
A spokesman for Lingle said the governor will subject the bill to the typical due process of consideration, but added that the legislation mirrors a similar bill proposed by the administration.
Kahuku Hospital, which has 25 beds, is the only hospital between Kane'ohe and Wahiawa and serves more than 22,500 people. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month after announcing in November that it would be forced to close.
House leaders stood with Kahuku Hospital administrators, workers and other supporters yesterday morning to announce that SB 1260 was poised for final approval.
The emergency funding would allow Kahuku Hospital to continue operating through the legislative session. But the bill would also preserve the hospital's license, retain its certificate of need and critical-access hospital designation, to help it reorganize and settle its debts, said Rep. Michael Magaoay, D-46 (Schofield, Mokule'ia, North Shore).
"We're here about saving lives," Magaoay said. "... The $950,000 will go a long way to help the hospital keep us afloat from March to the end of this session."
The hospital's troubles touched off a wave of community concern, and intense work by residents and employees to save the facility.
These included a group of five Kahuku Hospital workers and administrators who have been taking vacation time to make multiple trips to the Legislature to testify in support of the bills, said Mary Jean Lindsey, the hospital's patient accounts manager.
For one hearing alone, the group had to wait five hours, said Lindsey, who was born in the hospital 59 years ago.
"But we always make sure we testify," she said.
Pua Kamake'e'aina was one of the supporters who turned out yesterday. She was wearing a T-shirt that read, "Kahuku Hospital Saves Lives Help Save Kahuku Hospital."
Kamake'e'aina worked in patient accounts in 2004 when she suffered a stroke at home and suddenly went from being a Kahuku Hospital employee to Kahuku Hospital patient.
"Because Kahuku Hospital was there for me, I survived," Kamake'e'aina said. "If Kahuku Hospital wasn't there, I probably wouldn't be alive."
Magaoay thanked state Sen. Clayton Hee, D-23 (Kane'ohe, Kahuku), and others for their efforts in getting the funding approved. But Magaoay called the money only "part one" of a two-part effort to ensure Kahuku's long-term survival.
The second part, HB 843, would allow the private facility to be acquired by the Hawai'i Health Systems Corp., which operates 12 community hospitals for the state. The house legislation, which Magaoay introduced, now goes before the Senate Ways and Means committee.
Reach Dan Nakaso at email@example.com.