Full-time public health nurse in place on Lanai

After nearly three years of waiting, Lanai residents are enjoying their own, full-time public health nurse.

On Oct. 30, Linda Mau officially started her job at the Lanai Community Hospital.

“I was very blessed,” she said. “It’s been a really smooth transition for me. There was no trouble and the people have been so gracious. They even thanked the landlord for giving me a place to stay.”

Mau, who worked on Maui for about 13 years, was one of the few nurses who traveled to the island after longtime nurse Jackie Woolsey retired in 2009. Before she was hired, she would travel to the island once or twice a month and help with basic health needs, including elderly case management.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui District health officer with the state Department of Health, said Mau was a perfect candidate for the position because of her experience and willingness to move to Lanai.

“It’s kind of a remote area,” he said. “Some people love that type of life and some people dislike it . . . But she was willing to go, and she’s experienced.”

Pang said the position could have been filled about six months before the department transferred Mau, but the candidates had less experience and were new to the state. The department was looking for somebody who didn’t need much additional training and could immediately serve the community, he said.

In a 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey conducted by the department, 190 Lanai participants were asked if they were limited in any way because of health problems. Twenty-five percent answered “yes,” while 16 percent of the 365 participants in Lahaina and Wailuku answered similarly.

“For the community on Lanai, that was really, really bad,” said Nancy Tamashi-ro, a Lanai City resident who was one of the main advocates for the public health nurse position to be filled. “We fought for a nurse and now we have a wonderful public health nurse.”

Mau said people have told her how grateful they are to have a nurse on the island and how difficult it was for the community to be without one.

Woolsey, who was the public health nurse on Lanai for 23 years and one of the founders of the community center, said Mau will not only be able to treat patients, but also follow up with them at home.

“Lanai sometimes gets forgotten and you have to be a community advocate to get recognized,” she said. “Linda is a good person. . . . Now we have somebody there that can assess (patients’) problems and do things like immunizations and tuberculosis testing.”

Although Mau has experience with helping medically frail adults live in their own homes, she does not have as much experience in other fields.

“Lanai is the perfect environment for me to be a more generalized nurse,” she said.

Mau has been a registered nurse for about 27 years. “In order to do that, I have work with the school, as far as school health. . . . It’s a very small community and when things happen with other agencies, we partner with them.”

She said she has begun to meet with committees such as the Lanai Domestic Violence Task Force and the Lanai Community Children’s Council, and is working on programs to educate young men and women about sexual abuse.

However, one change she has already made is in disaster relief and preparedness.

The weekend she moved to the island, there was a tsunami alert, she said.

“I found out there was only one Red Cross volunteer,” she said. “So we had Red Cross training in January and now we have five more volunteers. . . . I want to make sure people are knowledgeable and they have an emergency plan and kit together.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.