Closure of Wahiawa nursing facility leaves worrisome long-term care gap

With a month to go before its closure, there are 20 patients left at Wahiawa Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 5:06 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 16, 2022 at 11:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The looming shutdown of the only skilled nursing facility in Wahiawa has advocates raising more alarms about Hawaii’s long-term care crisis.

Regulators have approved a closure plan for Wahiawa Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the facility will be delicensed on July 21. After this closure, more Oahu communities will be left scrambling for options.

With a month to go before its closure, there are 20 patients left at the facility.

“Now I’m starting to get flooded with phone calls — people in a panic,” said John McDermott, state long-term care ombudsman.

With the upcoming closure of the facility, the closest nursing homes to the North Shore will be in Pearl City and Kaneohe.

“The concern is — is this going to be a trend? Are other facilities going to say we can make more money by converting long-term care beds into surgical sub-acute beds?” said McDermott.

In response, Wahiawa General Hospital CEO Brian Cunningham said they did everything possible in the face of declining reimbursements and increasing costs.

“It is no secret to anyone that we have struggled as an organization over the years so we continue to do everything we can to maintain as many services as possible,” said Cunningham.

The shortage of beds comes as young people move away from Hawaii because of the high cost of living while the elder population is growing. In 2020, those 60 years and older in Hawaii made up about 25% of the population. By 2025, it’s projected to be 27%.

“Wahiawa is aging so rapidly,” said state Rep. Amy Perruso.

She says private nursing facilities have been ignored by the state and need more help.

“The state needs to be more involved in this and I feel very uncomfortable when we wait for others to fill the void,” said Perruso.

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