Layoff notices arrive for 200 hospital workers

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The first wave of layoff notices arrived just in time for Christmas letting 200 Hawaii Medical Center employees know they are out of work.  It's what the HMC administration tried to avoid for the past six months but today they sent out the layoff notices to about a fifth of the total staff.

An ambulance speeding to the Hawaii Medical Center West facility is a sad sign of the imminent closure.  Someone had chest pains in the lobby and they had to call in the ambulance from outside.  That's because the emergency room has already been closed and hospital is not accepting new patients.

It's the same situation over at the East facility in Liliha.  Today crews posted closed stickers over the emergency room signs.

Today more than 200 employees at both hospitals were given their pink slips notifying them that Christmas Eve will be their last day of work.

"We had a going away party for some of us that came. Some of us that were already out they came to say goodbye to everybody," said Ace Wills, radiology employee.

It's especially tough for the Wills family.  Ace Wills works in the radiology department.  His wife works in the transplant clinic.  They both will be laid off.

"I was just grabbing the rest of my belongings. That way when I do get my layoff I can just walk away. Don't have to come back and grab my things," said Wills.

He has started looking for other jobs and gives it three months.  If he and his wife don't land a job by then they may move to the mainland.  It's a difficult decision with two young daughters.

"I just told them its part of life. One chapter closes. Another one begins," said Wills.

The employees will qualify for unemployment insurance but because it's a bankruptcy case they will not get medical coverage.  That expires New Year's Eve and then it's all out of pocket.

"To me it's just sad.  Too bad it couldn't be after the holidays at least but it is what it is," said Wills.

"We truly regret the layoff and the impact it will have on affected employees, their families and the community. This was something we had been working hard over the last six months to avoid, first through Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and then through our efforts to sell the hospitals," wrote Maria Kostylo, Hawaii Medical Center CEO in a statement. "The workforce reduction will not affect patient care. Fewer than 60 patients remain at HMC East and HMC West. This week, HMC stopped admissions and discharged or transferred roughly 70 patients. The remaining patients continue to receive quality care and will be discharged or transferred to other medical facilities in the next week or two. We are working diligently with area hospitals and long term care facilities to ensure continuity of care. As departments close and patient census declines, we will continue to make the necessary workforce adjustments."

There are nearly 1,000 people that will be out of work.  The state says there are 500 health care related job openings available now however people may have to move to a neighbor island.

"Which would still keep them closer to home and family and at the same time perhaps address a healthcare shortage category on the neighbor islands. it seems it would be closer to a win win situation," said Dwight Takamine, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director.

To view the list of health care job openings in Hawaii click here.


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