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Informational meeting on hospitals transition set

State lawmakers will get an informational briefing Monday on the fallout of the one-year delay in transferring Maui public hospitals to Maui Health System, a Kaiser Permanente-affiliated hospital system.

The briefing is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday in the University of Hawaii Maui College’s ‘Ike Le’a Science Auditorium.

Following a law enacted in 2015, Kaiser had been chosen to take over management and operations of Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital as of July 1, but union legal and other challenges delayed that until July 1, 2017.

Kaiser’s decision was tied to the expiration of hospital labor contracts with the United Public Workers and Hawaii Government Employees Association. The unions have opposed their members moving from state to private employment.

Gov. David Ige has said that the state is working with the unions on the transfer of the hospitals to Kaiser.

After Kaiser announced in late August the postponement of the changeover, officials with the quasi-public Hawaii Health Systems Corp. Maui Region announced that some services and about 10 percent of beds in the county’s three public hospitals would be shut down this year.

The Maui Region board’s plans for the postponed transfer to Kaiser, include closing beds and potentially services over two phases. The first phase would shut down eight intensive-care beds and a dozen medical/surgical beds; and the second phase would see up to another 30 beds in other units and multiple services closed throughout the region.

Maui Region officials have said that their biggest struggle has been getting and keeping staff. The hospitals have seen resignations from employees who’ve decided to retire or seek other jobs.

Staff vacancies have been estimated at 400 out of nearly 2,000 positions countywide.

Hospitals officials have said that the bed closures would mean decreased capacity to critical patient services, such as strokes, heart cases, neurosurgery, orthopedics, trauma and other cases requiring patients to be flown to Oahu for care.

Monday’s meeting will bring together three state Senate committees: the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health, chaired by West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker; the Committee on Judiciary and Labor, chaired by Central Maui Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran; and the Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by Sen. Jill Tokuda.

According to an announcement, the committees have invited the leadership of Maui Memorial, Kula and Lanai hospitals and Kaiser “to inform the committees and the community of plans to ensure the continued delivery of high-quality health care services and ensure patient safety during this prolonged transition.”

The list of those called as presenters include Wesley Lo and Dr. Barry Shitamoto, the current and incoming Maui Region chief executive officers; Paul Harper-O’Connor, Kula and Lanai Community hospitals administrator; Dr. Nicole Apoliona, Kula Hospital medical director; Avery Chumbley, Maui Region board chairman; Anthony Takitani, Maui Region board member; Mary Ann Barnes, president of Kaiser Permanente Hawai’i, and Dr. Linda Rosen, HHSC chief executive officer.

No public testimony will be accepted.

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