Shoring up our hospital

Maui Memorial Medical Center has made enormous strides in recent years.

Its new cardiac services, stroke care and beautifully redesigned emergency rooms are state of the art and lives have already been saved – and will continue to be saved – because of them. Just last week, a story in The Maui News detailed how a 37-year-old woman having a stroke was saved by a team of doctors and nurses led by interventional neuroradiologist Dr. Turgut Berkmen.

A very few years ago, there was no such care available on Maui. At the very least, the woman would have been left paralyzed. She probably would have died.

Such care, though, is expensive and Maui Memorial has joined its fellow hospitals in the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. in facing a major funding shortfall because of declining reimbursements from the federal government and increased labor costs that were not budgeted for.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has agreed to seek a $14 million emergency appropriation requested by acting HHSC President and Chief Executive Officer Avery Chumbley in the next legislative session. But, according to coverage in The Maui News, the governor has described the emergency appropriation as a “Band-Aid approach” and wants HHSC to come up with a permanent solution.

We would suggest that a task force be formed immediately with all interested parties – HHSC officials, hospital administrators, labor and medical staffs – represented. All options should be explored – private-public partnerships, scaling back long-term labor costs, management restructuring, etc., etc. – so that there is a plan that the governor and the Legislature can see during the next session.

In short, the Legislature and the governor need to see that the “Band-Aid” they will provide will lead to long-term healing of the system.

The hospitals in HHSC are vital to the communities they serve. The people most intricately involved in them need to provide the leadership to put those facilities on a stable, long-term economic footing.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.