I agree with Hermine Harman (Letters, July 19) that Hawaii Healthcare Systems Corp.'s deteriorating financial results are a concern, but I disagree that the solution lies in privatizing Hawaii's public health care facilities when the root cause of the system's financial results is inadequate payment for services by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.
This is born out by the fact that every hospital in Hawaii, public and private, lost money on operations the past few years. Emphasizing this point, the same day Ms. Harman's letter appeared in the paper, The Maui News reported that North Hawaii Community Hospital, a Big Island private hospital, projects a $7 million budget deficit in the ensuing year and plans to cut 59 staff positions to staunch the flow of red ink.
Public health systems like HHSC serve an important public health mission: to provide health care services in areas where others will not. For instance, if the Maui Region of HHSC did not operate a hospital on Lanai, the people of Lanai would not have local access to hospital care; the island's population is simply too small to support a profitable facility. And, although Gov. Lingle is now heard to complain that recent legislation (SB 1792 carried by Maui legislators last year) prevents HHSC from taking money from one region (Maui) to support operating losses in others, this is exactly what our community demanded, thereby enabling our regional medical facilities to retain earnings and devote resources to improving the level of care and service available here.