by Dr Kelii Akina PhD, Grassroot Institute, May 26, 2017
At this point, the Maui hospital venture has turned into the Little Engine that Could of public-private partnerships. Despite multiple attempts to stop or derail it, things keep chugging along. And come July 1, it looks like Maui residents are finally going to start getting the care they deserve.
It sure is nice to pass on good news every once in a while.
In a series of meetings in Maui and Lanai, Kaiser officials have been talking about what to expect when they take over operations at Maui Memorial, Kula Hospital, and Lanai Community Hospital. Some of those changes are cosmetic -- slightly different names, logos, and websites. But the most important difference will be in staffing. As in, they plan to have enough (for a change).
At one point, hospitals in Maui county were operating with 30% physician vacancies -- something Kaiser plans to address immediately. Just as troubling was the lack of certain specialists, especially gastroenterologists and orthopedic surgeons. Kaiser says they are working to fill those gaps and will have two orthopedic surgeons on staff from day one. And two neurological surgeons not long after.
Officials stopped short of promising that health services in Maui will ever be as complete and wide-ranging as those available on Oahu. But the goal is to provide better care on Maui and spare its residents an unnecessary trip to Honolulu for medical services.
And what about the biggest stumbling block of the entire transition, the employment issues? Currently, Kaiser says they have about 600 job applications, and they plan to be aggressively hiring through job fairs and recruitment efforts once they take over operations. While they're already hiring nurses and physicians, they say their biggest needs are administrative (secretaries, clerks, and the like).
In other words, the free market is already working to improve health care access in Hawaii. It will be interesting to see what happens once the transition is complete.