Officials address concerns about hospitals transfer

Type of insurance will not be an issue

Maui Health System, the community hospitals affiliated with Kaiser Permanente, hosts a community meeting Friday afternoon at the Cameron Center to share its vision and hear public input. Speakers were Chief Nurse Executive Gary Kienbaum (from left), Assistant Administrator for Clinical Services Jackie Levy and Chief Medical Director Dr. David Ulin. On July 1, Maui Health System will take over operations at Maui County’s three quasi-public hospitals, including Maui Memorial Medical Center. -- The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo

WAILUKU — Having adequate doctors, access to services for non-Kaiser Permanente members and the possibility of reopening adolescent mental health services were some of the issues brought up during a public meeting Friday.

“This is a community hospital,” said Maui Health System Chief Medical Director Dr. David Ulin said of Maui Memorial Medical Center. “There are no limits who should be coming to this hospital.

“Everyone should be using this hospital. You don’t have to be a Kaiser Permanente member. You do not have to be a Kaiser Permanente physician,” Ulin said, addressing questions about which patients would be eligible for services at Maui Memorial when operations and management for it, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital transfer July 1 from the state to Maui Health System, a Kaiser-affiliated entity.

As the changeover nears, Maui Health officials held a community meeting at the Cameron Center in Wailuku. The event was scheduled for residents to hear the new vision for the hospitals as well as create a forum for hospital officials to hear community input.

Nearly 30 people attended the meeting, including retired nurses, doctors, Maui County Office on Aging officials and community health program members. A similar meeting was held Wednesday in Lahaina.

In response to ongoing concerns about who will be eligible for medical services, Maui Health System officials reiterated that no one would receive special treatment if they are Kaiser members and that everyone would be eligible for care, regardless of insurance coverage.

In response to a question about filling physician vacancies at Maui Memorial, Ulin said that Maui Health officials are working on recruiting more physicians for current and future openings. The recruitment includes bringing in orthopedic surgeons and neurologists.

“We are recruiting like crazy,” he said.

In responding to other questions, Ulin later added that recruiting physicians in Hawaii is hard for everyone, especially with a statewide doctor shortage.

But Ulin pointed out that Maui would never have all of the specialists patients would want and that the primary concentration of specialists would remain on Oahu.

As far as other staffing, Chief Nurse Executive Gary Kienbaum said he has hired 50 to 60 recent graduates from the University of Hawaii Maui College’s nursing program.

Hiring local graduates eliminates the need to bring in more traveling nurses, which the community was concerned about because of staff turnover, Kienbaum said.

“It stabilizes the staff. . . . These people want to stay,” he said.

Other audience members asked about the possibility of Maui Health System restarting adolescent mental health services in Molokini II that have been closed at Maui Memorial since Oct. 15, 2014, because of a lack of funding and a shortage of physicians.

Keinbaum said that Maui Health System, too, will have a hard time finding qualified adolescent psychiatrists. But he said the nonprofit will aim to re-establish the adolescent mental health program.

Overall, Jackie Levy, assistant administrator for clinical services, said that the hospital staff is both excited and nervous about the upcoming transition. The nervousness isn’t because of the transition to a new entity, but because there will be a change with new electronic medical records.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii spokeswoman Laura Lott said that Maui Health has been “making every effort to make this transition as seamless as possible, so we hope people don’t notice a big difference right away.”

Because 97 percent of the current employes have accepted jobs with Maui Health System, Lott said members of the public will see many familiar faces at the hospitals, including trusted physicians and healthcare providers.

Lott added that check-in procedures and parking at the facilities would remain the same.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.


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