Bill paves way for public-private partnership at Maui Region hos - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Bill paves way for public-private partnership at Maui Region hospitals

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A House-Senate conference committee approved a bill Tuesday that will pave the way for a public-private partnership to take over Maui Memorial Medical Center -- along with the Kula and Lanai Community hospitals.

The decision comes just one week after Governor David Ige took the unusual step of asking lawmakers to put off a vote on the privatization of the hospitals under a partnership with Hawaii Pacific Health.

The amended version of the bill will allow proposals from any party -- both locally and across the country -- who are interested in taking over the operation of the Maui Region hospitals.

"It's open to others. Kaiser would fit the definition. HPH would fit the definition. Queens would fit the definition. We want to make sure that it's a transparent process and others who may not have considered it have an opportunity. I happen to think that HPH has the leg up because they've been talking about it, but it would clearly be open to others," explained Senator Roz Baker, who represents south and west Maui. "My only concern is that I want us to move as quickly as possible to commence the negotiation, because that's really going to be what will help the employees at the hospital -- and it will also ensure that we continue to have high quality health care services on Maui."

The new measure allows the governor to direct the transfer negotiations to protect the state's financial support and also ensure access to health care services on Maui remain unchanged.

"I think clearly this measure gives us the best possibility we could have of keeping high quality healthcare available on the island of Maui for residents and visitors and to keep healthcare jobs on our island," Senator Baker said.

Under the new terms, the bill would cap the state's financial support for the hospitals to what was provided in 2014. However, the new operator would be eligible to apply for capital improvement project funds for the first 10 years.

Officials say today's agreement is critical in keeping the doors to Maui Region's only hospitals open. The struggling hospitals projected a $800 million dollar deficit over the next ten years. Last month, the Maui Regional board annouced they would have to cut $28 million dollars in services and position at Maui Memorial alone to stay afloat this year.

"This action was absolutely essential for the people of Maui," said the bill's introducer, Speaker Joseph M. Souki in a statement provided to Hawaii News Now. "The financial situation for Maui Memorial was not sustainable for the short or long run, and a private-public partnership is the best solution for Maui and the state of Hawaii.

"What we did today will open the doors for a vital public-private partnership to keep Maui's hospitals open and to most importantly provide the appropriate and quality care for the people of Maui County. I thank Governor Ige for his leadership in bringing everyone to the table to work together on a bill that will have a significant impact on the lives of Maui County residents."

"It was important to all of us, particularly the Senate, that any transition did not disrupt any services, for the people of Maui and hopefully grow health services there quite quickly," said Health Committee Chair, Senator Josh Green in the statement. "We expect Maui Memorial will find a strong partner for the Maui health care system quickly so that everyone can move forward. We also didn't want people to lose benefits or jobs and there are provisions in the bill to make sure we do everything we can to continue a strong employment environment on Maui."

The bill now needs to be voted on before the full House and Senate. If it passes, it heads to the Governor for his signature.

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