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Maui Memorial Medical Center chief nursing officer to retire

Spokeswoman says Kienbaum’s decision unrelated to petition calling for his ouster

Gary Kienbaum – Had long planned retirement

Maui Memorial Medical Center’s Chief Nursing Officer Gary Kienbaum will be retiring early next year, though a spokeswoman said the decision was unrelated to a petition calling for his and other officials’ resignation during a COVID-19 outbreak at the hospital.

“Gary has been a nurse for over 40 years and had long planned his retirement for early 2021,” Maui Health spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda said via email Sunday. “This is not a new decision for Gary, we just formally announced.”

In April, as a cluster of coronavirus cases spread throughout Maui Memorial, some staff launched a petition calling for Kienbaum, President and CEO Michael Rembis, Chief Operating Officer Debbie Walsh and Strategic Communications Director Lisa Paulson to resign over their handling of the outbreak. More than 6,500 people had signed the change.org petition as of Sunday, though it was unclear how many were hospital staff.

Rembis announced Kienbaum’s retirement in an internal memo Friday. He also said that Paulson had left Maui Health to pursue a career with the county. Dallarda directed questions to Paulson but said that “neither one is related to the petition.”

Paulson, who previously served as executive director of the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association before joining Maui Health last August, could not be immediately reached for comment Sunday. It was unclear exactly when she left Maui Health.

LISA PAULSON – Left for a county position

Dallarda, who stepped in as interim communications director back in April, said that no decision has been made yet on whether she will be the full-time director and that she would continue to serve as communications advisor.

When asked what Rembis and Walsh might do, Dallarda said they will continue to work at Maui Health.

On Sunday, Kienbaum deferred commenting until a date for his retirement is set.

He was named to the Maui Health System leadership team in 2017 when Kaiser took over management of Maui Memorial, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital.

At the time he had 37 years of experience as a nurse and had been with Kaiser Permanente Hawaii for 15 years, including most recently as the interim chief nurse executive at Moanalua Medical Center.

With Kienbaum transitioning to retirement, Director of Nursing Marian Horikawa-Barth will be stepping in to help. A nurse for more than 30 years, Horikawa-Barth was born and raised on Maui and received her nursing degree from the University of Hawaii Maui College, Dallarda said.

She worked at several hospitals on the Mainland before returning home to work at Maui Memorial, where she’s been for the past 17 years.

“MMMC is by far the best hospital and best team that I have had the privilege to work with,” Horikawa-Barth said in a statement Sunday. “There is a true feeling of caring for your ohana at MMMC, because it is a fact that every day we care for our families, neighbors, friends and friends of friends.”

Horikawa-Barth earned a master’s of science in nursing in 2015 from the University of Arizona and completed her doctorate of nursing practice in 2018 from Grand Canyon University. She is a certified professional in health care quality, certified in executive nursing practice and a critical care registered nurse.

As for whether she will assume Kienbaum’s job upon his departure, Dallarda said “there are no formalized plans for Gary’s replacement at this time.”

Meanwhile, Maui Health is also planning to restart some construction projects that had been postponed due to COVID-19, Rembis said Friday. He tapped Chief Strategy Officer Jim Diegel to help with construction management alongside Mike Swanson, assistant administrator of hospital operations.

Rembis added that Maui Health has “several competing priorities as many of these construction projects are tied to state funding and must be completed by year end.”

Dallarda said Sunday that she did not have details on the projects but that she did know that they “are multi-phased, multi-year projects and include refurbishing of departments and repair work in general.”

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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