WAILUKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital, and Lanai Community Hospital officially transferred operations from state provider Hawaii Health System Corporation to Maui Health System, a subsidiary of Kaiser Permanente, on Saturday.
The historic transfer was commemorated by staff and leadership in a private blessing ceremony at each of the three community hospital facilities.
Employees arriving for their shift even received goodie bags.
Gov. David Ige approved $73 million last month to go towards working capital, employee separation benefits, renovation work and subsidizing operations.
Kaiser also pledged to invest more than $50 million to expand services, improve patient care and update technology.
Despite recruitment challenges, Maui Health System says its focus in the long-run is to increase specialty services.
The main priority now is to ensure patient care goes uninterrupted.
"I think short term, we're going to stabilize the emergent care on Maui, provide trauma service and stabilize orthopedics," said Dr. David Ulin, medical director of Maui Health System. "We're going to be able to provide world-class care on Maui, and we're going to be able to bring doctors and staff here who exhibit the best in what we're looking for."
Kaiser was slated to take over the three state-run facilities last July, but union disputes delayed the privatization for one year.
The new hospital administrator, Ray Hahn, is excited for the changes to come.
"It's really exciting for the 200 support personnel, the 1,500 employees of three hospitals, our community doctors and all the community pulling together," said Hahn.
Hospital staff have been preparing for the transition over the past several weeks, including training with a new electronic medical records system.
Roughly 93 percent of the 1,500 state employees have accepted jobs with Maui Health System and will continue working at the facilities as private-sector employees.
"It's exciting, but at the same time everyone is a little curious what's going on," said transporter Isaiah Yamaguchi. "But we know improvements are being made so it helps us to keep at ease."
Maui Health System will continue to operate the three facilities as community hospitals and associated clinics, serving all patients, regardless of their health insurance coverage.