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West Maui Hospital group seeks partner

Some local officials are wondering if the focus of the whole project should change

The West Maui Hospital and Medical Center is proposed for 15 acres makai of the Ka’anapali Coffee Farms on Kakaalaneo Road. Ground was broken for the 53,000-square-foot medical complex in August 2016. The project has run into some financing issues, with a second unsuccessful bond float. Developers are now seeking partners to help finance the hospital facility.

The West Maui Hospital Foundation is seeking financial support and looking for a partner to build and operate the long-awaited facility following two unsuccessful municipal bond offerings, the foundation’s board president announced Monday. But local officials are wondering whether the focus of the proposal should change.

Brian Hoyle, president of Newport Hospital Corp., earlier this year projected that if the second bond offering went through, hospital construction could be completed in December 2019. 

But that is not the case. 

Hoyle said the foundation is now looking for a “hui” to help. That might include financial support from the West Maui business community and Maui County and state government. 

In a month or two the foundation will issue a request for proposals that will offer the 15-acre hospital site makai of the Ka’anapali Coffee Farms to selected hospital systems and providers “with the proven financial ability to build and operate the West Maui Hospital,” Hoyle said on Monday. 

“The community, people’s support has been great. We love the West Maui community,” he said, adding that state and county governments have also been helpful. “What we are saying now, we tried on our own (to get financing), it just seems we can’t get it without some strong backing.”

The second bond offering of $69 million called for Newport Hospital Corp. to donate its West Maui hospital site to the foundation. The site is fully entitled, construction permit ready and graded with on-site, in-ground infrastructure, a news release said. Hoyle estimated the site is worth at least $10 million and the plans $2 million. 

Hoyle said it would cost around $45 million to build the hospital and buy its equipment. The bond totals were higher as they included other types of costs, he said. 

The plans for the West Maui Hospital and Medical Center call for a 25-bed, full-service hospital, including a 24-hour emergency room, three operating rooms, a 40-bed skilled nursing facility and a 40-unit assisted-living facility. Other features include two medical office buildings and a 40-bed drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation facility. 

The 53,000 square-foot medical complex is on 15 acres on Kakaalaneo Road. It broke ground in August 2016.

The project has been talked about for at least two decades to serve a community intermittently cut off from Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku by accidents and fires on Honoapiilani Highway. It received its certificate of need in March 2009. 

“This is long, long, long, overdue,” said West Maui state Rep. Angus McKelvey. 

He said that the state cannot fund the entire hospital, but could help, either thorough special purpose revenue bonds or grants-in-aid. 

McKelvey said a grant-in-aid for the project had not come to fruition in the past, but that was years ago. He also noted that the state had offered help with bonds, but Hoyle decided on another funding mechanism. 

McKelvey liked that Hoyle was reaching out for a partner. Without being specific, McKelvey said that perhaps an “established system” with a long-time health care facility in Lahaina that is aging, could get involved with the West Maui hospital. 

Hoyle did note that Hawaii does have “several good hospital systems,” which he has spoken to in the past. He declined to give names. 

McKelvey said that having long-term care options or care for senior citizens at the facility is important. He said the complex could also offer a place for “boutique medicine” and rehabilitation opportunities, all of which could help with its finances. 

South and West Maui state Sen. Roz Baker agreed that the hospital plans should look at long-term health care and assisted living options. It could also focus on its substance abuse component.

Baker said she wasn’t surprised that the bond float did not work, noting that “the delivery of health care has changed a lot since they started this.”

Baker also noted that small community hospitals around Hawaii have been struggling. Some of the reasons include the state and Maui’s doctor and nursing shortage along with issues with reimbursements. Baker said the West Maui situation is mitigated because there is a helicopter that can move people to Maui Memorial and paramedics in ambulances are delivering needed care while en route.  

“We may have to look at a different kind of facility to assist people that is not a hospital with the expectation that people have,” she said, noting that the West Maui facility will not be the “mini Maui Memorial” some expect.

“It has gone on for more than a decade,” Baker said. “Health care has changed. The landscape has really changed. We have more services that we did. We have better access than we did to the other side.”

Baker said she knows the community has been told that it needs and deserves a hospital, but the population in West Maui is still small. She said she is not hearing too much about a new hospital, but rather people in her district are saying they are going to Kula Hospital to visit their loved ones, pointing to a need for long-term care options in West Maui.  

She added perhaps another conversation is needed with the community to see if needs have changed since plans were proposed for the West Maui hospital.

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