HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The announcement that Hawaii Medical Center was closing its facilities in Ewa and Liliha didn't come as a complete surprise for some. But residents in the state's fastest-growing area are definitely concerned by the news.
"I think everyone was thinking that, oh, they're going to survive, they're not going to close," said Rep. Kymberly Marcos Pine (R-Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point, Puuloa). "And for this day to come, it really has put the whole Leeward coast in shock."
For much of West Oahu, Hawaii Medical Center West is the only hospital and emergency medical facility nearby. Having it shut down was unimaginable. But because of HMC's financial struggles, state lawmakers had already been looking at ways to try to keep it open.
"We have been in discussions to decide, should we make this a state facility? But we looked at the state finances, and we couldn't even add the medical centers to our state system because we're barely surviving ourselves," said Pine.
Even if the state can't take over, lawmakers said there is a demand for a medical center in the area.
"There's certainly going to be a continuing need in West Oahu, and down the road, hopefully in the near future, there may be opportunities for other health care providers or facilities to open up for our community," said Sen. Will Espero (D-Ewa Beach, Honouliuli, Lower Waipahu).
Other hospital operators have already been looking at HMC-West, including Hawaii Pacific Health, which operates Kapiolani Medical Center, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Clinic and Hospital, and Wilcox Medical Center on Kauai.
"Hawaii Pacific Health for many years has believed, and we've been very public about it, that Hawaii Medical Center West will be very successful in the future as a community and as an affiliate of Hawaii Pacific Health, if we can accomplish that," said Chuck Sted, president and CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health.
However, that remains unknown. What is certain is that until something like that happens, West Oahu residents will have to go farther to get emergency care.
"Hopefully, the ambulance service within West Oahu and that area will remain strong and that they will be available," said Espero. "But unfortunately there will be some time lost having to go to another facility."
Espero also said there are some talks to try to keep or establish some kind of emergency facility in that area, but it's far too early to say what will happen.
Related story: Hawaii Medical Center to close hospitals in Liliha and Ewa