by: Paul Drewes
KAHUKU (KHNL) - For 77 years it served the Kahuku community, but was slated to close at the end of the year because of out of control costs. Last minute meetings by the state and the board of directors for Kahuku Hospital may resuscitate efforts to keep it open.
After hearing of the hospital's impending closure, the state began efforts to bring the care center into Hawai'i Health Systems Corp., a network of ten state hospitals on Oahu and neighbor islands. In response to an overture from legislators, the hospital's board of directors yesterday temporarily suspended action on a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing to give the state time to acquire the rural hospital or affiliate it with the Hawai'i Health Systems Corp. That would keep this Kahuku fixture from bankruptcy but before it's a done deal, there are stipulations that need to be met regarding financial commitments and hospital operations.
State Rep. Colleen Meyer (R-47th, Ha'iku, Kahalu'u, La'ie) explains, "We are going to introduce legislation in this session. The HHSC, we would ask they take over Kahuku Hospital as an additional hospital. People need hospitals to go to and we feel strongly Kahuku is just as important (as the other hospitals it subsidizes)." Meyer is working with State Rep. Michael Magaoay (D-46th, Kahuku, North Shore, Schofield) and Sen. Clayton Hee (D-23rd, Kane'ohe, Kahuku), along with the state Department of Health to save the hospital.
Kahuku Hospital has run some $3.5 million into debt over the past few years with no way of controlling rising costs. The hospital was scheduled to shut its doors on December 31st. Now, the board says the state must meet two conditions within 2 weeks.