Queens Medical Center battles health care crisis

Cherie Castillo
Cherie Castillo

By Roger Mari - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii's fragile health care system could face even more rough times as the state's biggest hospital finds ways to make cut backs and avoid layoffs.

They're doing everything from re-negotiating vendor contracts, to not bleaching their towels. All this, to keep within a $550 miilion operating budget.

Part of the problem is rising fuel costs. Right now it's running anywhere between $8 million and $9 million to provide power to Queens Medical Center. Hawaiian Electric implements a surcharge each time the price of gas goes up.

"For every dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil given our utilization that translates to about $50,000 a year," said Queens medical Center President Art Ushijima.

Helping to cut costs, the Queens Medical Center plans to launch an efficiency initiative called project "Evergreen." It includes installing sensory light switches.

"It's probably now running somewhere around $8 million to $9 million dollars a year, just to provide power to the hospital," said Ushijima.

The bulk of its energy costs come from air conditioning.

"We have equipment that needs to be cooled so the utility expenses at a place the size of Queens is substantial," said Ushijima.

If it's unable to ride out these rough times, the biggest concern would be losing doctors.

"I think that the biggest concern that we would have are those services that we provide that benefit the community for which there is inadequate reimbursement," said Ushijima.

Even though medical care costs are rising some are willing to sacrifice more cash to ensure medical attention.

"I would pay for that to make sure there's going to be somebody there for me," said Honolulu Resident Cherie Castillo.

Unlike rising gas prices where people can elect not to drive, health care is something we will all need eventually.

"At some point in time, there are the physical laws that say something is going to break down," said Ushijima.

Art Ushijima says they are doing what they can for now at Queens Medical Center, but a real solution to this health care crisis needs to be