HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After 85 years of serving patients in the islands, Hawaii Medical Center closed its last remaining hospital Thursday.
Meanwhile, efforts to move the Liver Center and the organ transplant program to the Queen's Medical Center are on the fast track.
Patient advocate Marsha Joyner hopes it will be a swift and smooth transition as the Liver Center, which was housed at the now-closed Hawaii Medical Center, heads to a new home at the Queen's Medical Center. She says those with Hepatitis B and C, which can lead to liver cancer, cannot afford a break in treatment.
"I am absolutely delighted to hear that everyone's working together to see that that doesn't happen," Joyner of the Hepatitis Support Network of Hawaii said. "But that first few days was absolutely scary. It was terrifying."
Queen's officials say they're awaiting various approvals to launch their organ transplant program, but the process is being expedited. A certification application that normally takes a year to complete was submitted in about 30 to 45 days. They expect to hear back in the next couple of months.
The Liver Center has none of those types of roadblocks. It can be opened as soon as it's fully staffed. Queen's says it's been actively recruiting liver specialists, and may be ready by this summer.
"We do need some infrastructure as far as more specialists in gastroenterology to be part of our program to really have a functional program," Karen Schultz, Queen's vice president for patient care, said.
Sen. Josh Green, MD, chair of the senate health committee says lawmakers had already started considering a $1.5 million emergency appropriation to support transplant services. He expects continued discussions on that funding will be on the fast track as well.
"That, of course, will provide some ability to have extra support services for all liver disease and all kidney disease," Green said. "I know that that will make it more possible for them quickly hire these individuals."