Kahuku Hospital Workers Shocked By Closure

Don Olden
Don Olden
Dr. Richard Price
Dr. Richard Price
Kahuku's emergency room is the only one serving the rural north shore of Oahu
Kahuku's emergency room is the only one serving the rural north shore of Oahu

Nov 15, 2006 02:26 PM

By Paul Drewes

(KHNL) - For 77 years it has been there for Oahu's north shore residents, providing life-saving health care in an emergency.

But on Tuesday, Kahuku Hospital announced it will be closing its doors by the end of the year.

The view of this aging hospital shows its roof is in bad need of repair.

But inside, this 77-year-old hospital is in need of a financial fix.

"The hospital was losing 1.5 to 2 million dollars a year," said Don Olden, Kahuku Hospital CEO.

The hospital has dealt with rising expenses from malpractice costs tripling in three years to wage increases for employees.

And yet, the staff is still underpaid compared to other Oahu hospitals.

Some of these close knit workers have been here for decades.

And there has been rumors of the hospital closing for a while, but even still this announcement came as a shock.

"There were a lot of people saddened by it, crying and I'm sure there are a lot of people angered by it, " said Dr. Richard Price, an emergency room physician. "Everyone worried about where they are going to go and people going to other places to find jobs"

The Kahuku Hospital grew from taking care of plantation families to taking care of much of the North Shore.

But expenses and unpaid taxes also grew out of control.

Now, they have put it on life support and by the end of the year, it is expected to be in bankruptcy.

But this dedicated staff still hope and believe they will be able to serve as the lifeline for this community.

"We need to do something soon, state and medical staff to put something together here from the ashes to serve the people we have here," said Kahuku Hospital's Chief of Staff, Dr. Doug Nielson.

The Kahuku Hospital not only provides medical care, having it here also saves valuable time for nearby residents. Without this hospital, time may run out for critical patients."

"Patients are going to die," said Dr. Richard Price. "Mom and dad are going to have chest pains and you will have no choice but to put them in the back of the car and drive in the middle of the night to the next nearest hospital."