Keeping the vog out of Kau Hospital

Merilyn Harris
Merilyn Harris

By Stephanie Lum - bio | email

KAU (KHNL) - It seems like the common sense thing to do, go to the hospital if you're feeling sick. For Kau residents who suffer from respiratory problems, however, the nearest hospital may not be the best place to be on voggy days.

Kau hospital is the only hospital serving an area the size of Oahu. It's equipped to provide acute, long-term and emergency care services but the facility is old. As hospital administrator Merilyn Harris shows us, its biggest problem remains, keeping the vog out.

"The first issue we have with air quality is when we come through the door way here. The doorway doesn't close completely since these are old doors," said Merilyn Harris as she points to gaps between and below the front entry way.

Further up the hallway, Harris says, "As the sulfur dioxide levels increase, we close these doors then we move everyone into day activities room."

Portable fans on the floor help keep out some of the bad air but it doesn't keep patients safe from breathing in dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide.

"This is normally where we get our cross breeze," says Harris. "Once these windows are closed, then it's it's really uncomfortable. It's not fair for the long-term care residents."

The hospital was built in 1971. There's no central air conditioning; just ceiling fans, a portable air condition unit in the emergency room and old jealousies that just like the front doors, don't close shut.

"We actually had to close the clinic because we can't provide a safe place to provide care," says Harris. "If we have to close because we can't provide a safe environment, to provide care, that's a real serious issue."

The cost to make the upgrades necessary to keep the vog out of Kau Hospital is an estimated 5.6 million dollars. With the current state of the economy and the newly implemented budget cuts, Harris says, whether they receive the funding needed remains to be seen.

What isn't going away, is the continued support the community provides through donations and fundraising.