Nearly 30 medical workers on Maui at risk of losing their jobs after the planned closure of a surgery center

Union reps call the move catostrophic, especially during a pandemic.
Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 10:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kaiser Permanente announced it will shut down various services at its Wailuku Clinic on Maui because of financial troubles.

As of a result, dozens of nurses, technicians, and staff members could soon lose their jobs.

“I really am concerned about losing my job during this time and during the COVID pandemic,” said Sannah Evangelista, a registered nurse in facility’s gastroenterology department. “I am the sole bread winner for my family. My husband lost his job to the COVID pandemic and I am the primary person who insures my family.”

Kaiser Permanente said it will close the ambulatory surgery center and gastroenterology services at its Wailuku Medical Office – eliminating the jobs of 11 technicians and staff and 17 nurses.

In a statement, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii said it is reevaluating operations due to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given our financial challenges and the need to develop new ways to deliver care, improve efficiency and service, and reduce costs, this decision makes strategic sense. It also aligns with our organizational mandate to find creative alternatives to how we do business in the COVID-19 era and beyond.”

Hawaii Nurses and Health Care Professionals and UNITE HERE! Local 5 represents the affected workers.

Union representatives say the eliminated services will be moved to Maui Memorial Medical Center as early as Mid-October.

However, they said it is unclear if the laid-off employees will be able to find jobs there.

“They promised to make reasonable efforts to expand clinical service, upgrade facilities and equipment,” said Eric Gill with UNITE HERE! Local 5. “Kaiser needs to try harder to keep those promises.”

Evangelista says the island needs more access to care, not less.

“Patients state that they want to cancel their appointments and I’m really concerned about them because having colonoscopies or having procedures is important to their healthcare,” Evangelista said.

Daniel Kerwin with UNITE HERE! Local 5 said they were told the Department of Health inspected the Wailuku facility and found several deficiencies.

“There might be deficiencies. But there is no reason to hastily and without public discussion to disrupt and adversely affect healthcare on Maui,” Kerwin said.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino says he will do his best to help these frontline workers find new jobs.

“I have been assured by Kaiser that many of them could be absorbed into the hospital because the need is still there. Other medical areas, other medical groups have also said they could probably pick up a number of these people,” Victorino said.

All other services at the Wailuku facility will remain open and operational.

Victorino said he is open to a public hearing on this matter.

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