A daunting challenge

Almost three years ago, we had an enlightening experience when we attended an appreciation luncheon for Hale Makua Health Service’s supporters.

The guest speaker for the event was Mary Ann Barnes, then president of Kaiser Permanente Hawaii and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals. Since that speech, Barnes’ company — Kaiser — has taken over as the private partner running the hospitals on Maui and Lanai.

Barnes retired last September, but one of the issues she talked about that day still resonates.

There is a major challenge facing health care in Maui and Hawaii:

1. At the time of her speech (August 2015), Barnes said Hawaii was short between 700 and 900 physicians and that number could grow to 2,000 by 2025. She said there is a shortage of all providers — not just doctors, but nurses and physician’s assistants.

2. The right investments must be made to attract the correct number of primary care physicians and specialists to Maui — as well as physician assistants and nurses. Our home island should be our principle “venue of care.”

We made reference to this talent shortage in an editorial last week when we endorsed Dr. Josh Green for lieutenant governor. We urged whoever is elected governor to appoint Green to head a task force to come up with suggestions for recruiting and retaining doctors for our state.

The entire state, but particularly the Neighbor Islands, is having trouble attracting and keeping medical talent.

Barnes’ speech was almost three years ago and, frankly, we are concerned that the problem she described is not getting any better. There is still a problem attracting new medical talent to Maui.

So, we’d reiterate our call for a medical recruitment-retaining task force. There is a crisis looming and we have to take our heads out of the sand and address it.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.