Wahiawa General to close long-term nursing facility as it faces numerous issues

Wahiawa General Hospital has announced plans to close its long-term nursing center, effective July 22.
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 9:41 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 10:15 PM HST
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WAHIAWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Wahiawa General Hospital has announced plans to close its long-term nursing center, effective July 22.

The small independent hospital said insufficient insurance reimbursements and continued financial challenges are among the reasons for the closure.

Wahiawa General also said it has been struggling to hire and retain staff members during the COVID pandemic.

Hospital administrators said the decision to close the 136-bed facility wasn’t an easy one.

“I just can’t tell you what a sad day it is for Wahiawa General, our staff, our residents, our community,” said CEO Brian Cunningham.

Wahiawa General had received millions in taxpayers dollars to keep it afloat in the past, but it is still losing over a million dollars a year.

It also doesn’t have the money to improve existing facilities, such as the long-term nursing center, which was built in 1966.

“We were confronted with this challenge, even pre-COVID, and we’re having sort of similar dialogues,” said Cunningham. “What is the pathway forward? What is the best and most responsible decision?”

Hospital administrators said many of the patients in Wahiawa are with the Supplemental Security Income program or Medicaid, which ave low reimbursement rates.

“We cannot afford to be losing nursing homes, especially when our senior population is increasing so rapidly,” said John McDermott, the state’s long-term care ombudsman.

The hospital is offering two months of additional pay to staff who stay on until the unit closes. It will also add 45 acute care beds and intends to use as many nursing center staff members as possible in the new unit.

It will still be a challenge for residents and their families and loved ones.

“For the North Shore, without Wahiawa, you now have two choices,” said McDemott. “You either go to Kaneohe for the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Facility over at Pohai Nani for rehab, or if you don’t want to go in that direction, you have Pearl City Nursing Home. And that’s it.”

Wahiawa General is giving 90 days notice, and helping to relocate patients. There are currently 60 of them at the facility.

“We have a really comprehensive plan where we are working directly with the residents and their family members or loved ones to first identify a facility that would best meet their needs, and then collaborate with that transition facility,” said Cunningham.

The hospital plans to hold several meetings with patients and staff members ahead of the closure.

McDermott said administrators at Oahu Care and Aloha Rehab have already contacted his office, offering to take some of Wahiawa General’s patients.

McDermott also said people with questions or needing assistance can call his office at (808) 586-7268.

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