WAILUKU - A new clinic for the island's uninsured and indigent residents is lifting spirits in both patients and staff.
"I love it," 31-year-old Amanda Mizner said last week during a prenatal visit at the Malama I Ke Ola Health Center, a facility that once housed Ooka Super Market.
"I like the space," Mizner's obstetrician, Dr. Aaron Altura, said. "Our patients love it - that's the best part."
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Dr. Aaron Altura performs an ultrasound on Amanda Mizner (top photo) as her husband, Ziggy, and son Lawapono Kuahiwinui look on.
This month, the Community Clinic of Maui opened its health care facility in Wailuku, continuing its mission to serve the homeless, the poor and those underserved by medical care on the island.
The clinic will keep its offices in Kahului and Lahaina open, while also operating its new facility in Wailuku.
"It really has uplifted the staff," Medical Director Dr. Jay Faris said of the $11 million clinic. "They find it hugely gratifying."
"I think what it conveys to our patients is a message that we care and they're important to us," Faris said. "The surroundings are certainly much nicer, and there's a feeling like they're in a true health care facility."
Compared to what was its primary clinic on Lono Avenue in Kahului, the number of exam rooms jumped from eight to 19 in the new center. Each area - pediatrics, obstetrics, adult health and behavioral health - all have separate space and waiting rooms.
Doctors and nurses share the same space so that "communication flows more easily" between them, Faris said.
Now, the Community Clinic of Maui serves about 8,000 patients islandwide at its clinics, including those at the Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center, on Lono Avenue in Kahului and one at Aumakua Lane in Lahaina.
The Wailuku health center can accommodate as many as 10,000 patients, according to B.J. Ott, the clinic's deputy director. And when the entire space is built out, patient capacity could double.
So far, only about 16,000 of the 36,000 square feet in the renovated building has been built out. Work is continuing on a new dental clinic (expected to be completed next spring), a laboratory, and pharmacy and X-ray departments.
The clinic also houses the federally funded Women Infants and Children program, which the community clinic administers for approximately 1,200 clients.
There are also plans to sponsor classes in health and family education and to help people quit smoking.
The clinic employs an in-house dietician to cover lessons on nutrition and other health issues.
The Wailuku health center does not serve patients in need of urgent care, but it concentrates on other services ranging from treating people suffering from colds and flus to caring for pregnant women while they're expecting and after they deliver their babies. The clinic also helps people manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, HIV-AIDS and asthma.
The center also offers behavioral care services.
"We provide as comprehensive and as good a standard of care as anywhere else in the county," Faris said.
Funding sources for the project included approximately $5 million in federal earmark appropriations, $4.6 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $1.3 million in state funding, $250,000 from Maui County and $507,000 of the clinic's own funds.
Malama I Ke Ola, which in Hawaiian means caring for life and health, is staffed by 77 people, including physicians, nurses and behavioral health specialists as well as administrative and support workers.
The center's features include an entry lobby featuring a water fountain with a tile mosaic of Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley, designed and created by Monica Riecke Morakis.
A biometric system requires employee fingerprints in order to access certain rooms for medical care or records. A playroom is in the works for children waiting in pediatrics; and a separate waiting room has been set aside for people with serious and possible contagious illnesses. Children and babies who are well and visiting physicians for check-ups or routine visits also have separate waiting rooms.
There are many parts of the building that took "green," or sustainable, energy and technology into consideration such as the use of recycled rubber tires for vinyl flooring, low-flow toilets and lights that turn off automatically when no one is in a room for a while.
Both Altura and Faris said that in the short time the clinic has been open, they've already seen more patients making their appointments on time and following physician directions in part because of the "nicer feel" the new facility gives them.
"They feel like they're in a true health care facility," Faris said.
Clinic officials are waiting for word on funding, but they are hopeful that by next spring they can complete the dental clinic portion of the center.
The clinic's contractors include GYA Architects Inc.; Arita-Poulson General Contractors LLC and Despins General Construction Inc.; consultants Hans Riecke of HR Architect Inc. and Capital Link Inc.; and project manager Don Brandeburg (DLB Management Services).
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.