State hospitals to seek $14M in emergency funds

State hospitals to seek $14M in emergency funds
Published: Aug. 5, 2013 at 10:13 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 5, 2013 at 10:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With its privatization plans on hold, the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. says it needs $14 million in emergency funding from the state.

The HHSC is projecting a loss of about $28 million in its 2104 fiscal year and needs the money to pay for raises awarded to state workers and federal funding shortfalls.

"It's going to be challenging because if we are unable to get some support for emergency funding it man mean a cut in services or an elimination of some positions," said Avery Chumbley, HHSC's acting CEO.

The HHSC operates 15 public hospitals around the state including Maui Memorial, the Hilo Medical Center on the Big Island and Oahu's Leahi Hospital. Many of the hospitals are in rural areas under served by the medical community.

State lawmakers were receptive to the funding request but want to know more details about the HHSC's finances.

"The hospital system is our emergency safety net," said state Sen. Green, D-Kona and chair of the Senate Health Committee. "We always knew there would be some need for emergency appropriations on the neighbor islands."

The shortfall comes after efforts to privatize most of the state's public hospitals fell through earlier this year.

The deal with Phoenix-based Banner Health would have addressed some of the system's financial woes but would have meant the loss of hundreds of state jobs.

"We don't have any current talks with Banner right now. What we've done is step back and say we would like to explore a public-private partnership. That may mean Banner or it may mean another system," said Chumbley.

Over the long term, however, the state's hospital system says it faces an even bigger bill to upgrade aging hospitals. The problem is so big it can't be solve with emergency appropriations but will required long-term planning.

"Capital improvement, money, I think it's easily above $1 billion. I would venture to say its closer to $1.5 billion. We'll have to deal with that at some point in time," said Wesley Lo, regional CEO for Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Some facilities, like Kula Hospital, are a century old and haven't seen an upgrade for decades, he said.

"The boiler broke so we had to replace the boiler," Lo said. "The problem we had is if we plugged the boiler into the pipes, all of the pipes would have blown so we had to close one floor throughout this year just to replace the plumbing."

The state legislature will hold further briefings on the HHSC to look into the state agency's funding.

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