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New pediatrics clinic opens

Clinic physician is concerned about decline in doctor visits, vaccinations

Registered nurse Denise Carvalho (left) and Dr. Andrew Fox throw shakas at the entrance of Kupu Pono, a recently opened pediatrics center in Wailuku. Kupu Pono photos

A nonprofit health care center has launched a new pediatrics clinic in hopes of increasing drop-in visits and child immunizations, both of which have declined during the pandemic.

Hui No Ke Ola Pono, a community-based health enhancement, disease prevention and health care center, recently opened the Kupu Pono clinic at the J. Walter Cameron Center in Wailuku. The clinic offers newborn care, immunizations and PPD testing for tuberculosis, school and sports physicals, well-baby exams for newborns and toddlers, child exams for 3- to 17-year-olds, sick visits and more.

Dr. Andrew Fox, a pediatrician at Hui No Ke Ola Pono, said in a letter to The Maui News that concerns over COVID-19 have caused fewer people to visit medical offices, leading to lower rates of child vaccination.

“Having an enlarging pool of undervaccinated infants and children will only add to our community’s woes this fall and winter,” Fox said. “Potentially adding in cases of whooping cough, bacterial pneumonia, meningitis and other vaccine-preventable viral respiratory infections, like influenza and measles, would create a much larger and more complicated situation.”

Fox said that the pediatric clinic is currently accepting new patients and takes most insurances as well as MedQuest and Medicaid programs.

The Kupu Pono clinic, a recently opened pediatrics center, is part of Hui No Ke Ola Pono at the J. Walter Cameron Center in Wailuku.

He added Monday via phone that times are “not good right now” with families experiencing financial hardships amid the pandemic. The clinic is designed to help those who may be struggling or have difficulty accessing health care.

“We just want the community to know that we are here to help,” he said.

Kupu Pono has been seeing patients over the past couple months, but not a lot. While people may avoid visiting the doctor over fears of exposure to COVID-19, Fox said that getting checkups and seasonal influenza shots are very important.

He reassured the community that with the development of prescreening processes, temperature checks, COVID-19 testing options, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety protocols and a better understanding of the virus, office visits have become much safer for patients.

Sick visits can be done remotely via telehealth but require a co-pay and are limited to a couple of insurances, Fox said. Some complaints, like labored breathing, chest pain, confusion or bluish tint to the skin or lips, which indicates low oxygen levels in the bloodstream, should be handled at an emergency medical center.

The opening of Kupu Pono was geared toward helping families stay ahead of the curve.

With flu season approaching and kids eventually expected to return to in-person classes depending on rates of COVID-19, Fox anticipates an increase in phone calls and traffic to medical offices, which will make it harder on the health care industry to handle any potential surge of COVID-19 infections.

Many of the same symptoms caused by the coronavirus are similar to influenza, such as fever, cough or headaches. The flu, however, can be prevented with seasonal immunization and treated early with antiviral medication.

“Social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding group gatherings and getting the seasonal influenza vaccine are all important preventative steps for the foreseeable future,” Fox said.

The standard vaccination schedule and timed doses of vaccines for children helps them to build up immunity, he said. Each dose boosts the antibody response until a protective amount is circulating and sustained.

Missing or delaying doses may result in the child remaining susceptible to infection if exposed.

Hui No Ke Ola Pono encourages patients to call if they need advice. Current clients can call the office to make an appointment. New clients must fill out and submit registration and client intake forms before scheduling an appointment. The paperwork can be accessed at hnkop.org under the “Forms” drop-down menu. Once completed, hard copies can be dropped off at the Cameron Center, Room 21. Forms can also be mailed in to Hui No Ke Ola Pono at Walter Cameron Center, 95 Mahalani Street, Room No. 21, Wailuku, HI 96793, or faxed to 242-6676.

Hui No Ke Ola Pono also offers programs on nutrition, health management and health care. Its mission is to improve the health and wellness of Maui’s Native Hawaiians, but health care providers “are open to everyone respectful to our values,” Fox said.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit www.hnkop.org and under “Our Services,” click “Kupu Pono,” or call 244-4647.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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