HHSC committed to quality health care

As health care providers, educators, professionals and community members, we have dedicated our lives to serving our community. At Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital, we work each day with one common goal – to provide the people of Maui County with access to quality health care services and a health care system that is transforming the health and enriching the lives of our community.

Maui is our home – where we choose to live, raise our families and spend our lives. We are also patients and parents who understand the importance of access to quality health care for not just ourselves but our family, friends and neighbors.

Maui Memorial Medical Center is the only full-service, acute-care medical facility in Maui County. Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital provide much-needed health care service to the rural populations in Maui County. We have remarkable hospitals with great potential. They are staffed by dedicated doctors, nurses, allied medical personnel and supportive staff. However, we are facing many challenges that are limiting our ability to be successful and sustainable for the future.

In recent years, we have been fortunate to make significant improvements in our region. Despite this, are we concerned about the future of health care in Maui County? With the current operating budget shortfall, dire need for a state emergency appropriation, declining government and third-party payer reimbursements, the added burden of keeping up with ever-changing national health care reform requirements, the growing shortage of health care and medical professionals, unfunded mandates, and our aging facilities with increasing capital improvement costs, yes, we are very concerned.

In recent years, we have seen the net operating losses of Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which oversees 15 facilities statewide, substantially increase. We also estimate that HHSC will need more than $1 billion to fund capital improvement projects to modernize our aging facilities.

As a part of the state’s public hospital system, our operational revenues and the amount of state subsidies we receive each year are not sufficient to cover our operating costs, infrastructure needs and employee salaries. This is not sustainable.

In the Maui Region, while over the past 10 years there have been significant improvements to our facilities, we still have much to do. Our communities are growing and so are our needs.

Maui’s families deserve better. And we would like to see improvements and expanded services including a birthing center, upgraded operating rooms, modernized patient rooms, expanded emergency rooms and more parking.

Our current master plan calls for the replacement of MMMC’s old wing, which was originally built in the 1950s, and other critically needed projects at an estimated cost of $500 million. Kula Hospital is nearly 75 years old and faces many infrastructure challenges. Last year, when its boiler broke a new one could not be hooked up before the plumbing in the entire building was replaced. This is not acceptable.

The people of Maui County deserve better. We all deserve better. But how do we find a solution?

Our long-term vision is to improve the quality and access of health care in Maui County by expanding and growing services, having the capital to improve or replace our aging facilities, reducing our dependence on government subsidies and paying our employees fair wages and benefits.

The first step is for us to all come together and work to find a long-term solution to the delivery of health care for Maui County. We need to look carefully and review all options that would allow us to grow our services, invest in our facilities and fairly compensate our employees. While we do not have a definite partner, our options include considering a public-private partnership with a well-established local or national leader in patient care and the delivery of health care services.

Our actions and decisions at this critical point in time will determine our health care future. We must set aside whatever differences we may have had in the past, come together and work to find what’s best for all of us.

Join us in finding that solution. And join us in putting patients, their families and this community first.

* Dr. Melvin Burton is the chief of staff at Maui Memorial Medical Center. Wesley Lo is the chief executive officer at Maui Memorial Medical Center. Clay Sutherland is the chairman of the Maui Regional Board for HHSC.