City: Rehab Hospital renovations don't meet disability requirements

City: Rehab Hospital renovations don't meet disability requirements
Published: Sep. 14, 2015 at 9:54 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 14, 2015 at 10:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific is in trouble with the city which said recent renovations there do not meet disability access requirements, a charge the hospital denied Monday.

Every one of the patients at what's known as "Rehab Hospital" is disabled, so it's surprising the architect's plans for renovations there and even the completed construction failed to meet disability requirements, according to city officials.

Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific in Nuuanu has spent millions of dollars renovating its ground floor.  A fundraising campaign raised more than $17 million for the project.

The city of Honolulu approved a $500,000 grant to the hospital to help pay for those improvements and required the architect's plans be Ok'd by a state disability access board.

"The plans need to be approved by them so that there is assurances that there will be access by folks with disabilities," said Barbara Yamashita, the city's deputy community services director.

City records reveal the architect's plans included "toilet rooms which are not big enough to accommodate people in wheelchairs."

Yamashita said the architect submitted numerous revisions to meet a list of concerns but construction was completed with several other disability access problems such as counters that were too high for those in wheelchairs, exit signs that didn't have braille lettering for the blind, and some fire alarm stations that were too high on the walls for someone in a wheelchair to reach.

"That is essential before we can really sign off on the project or before they can say it's a completed project.  We need to have that certification," Yamashita said.

The city is withholding the final $100,000 of its $500,000 grant until the hospital spends more time and money correcting the disability access violations.

"This looks bad for both of us, because really, we aren't making payment, and here's this open contract.  And they don't get the funds," Yamashita said.

Through a public relations firm, hospital President and CEO Dr. Timothy Roe released a statement late Monday that said "This project was constructed in compliance with minimum design requirements in state law for disability access. Given this, we currently do not have any plans to make changes to the renovations completed and thus, there is no timetable for the changes and no additional costs are anticipated. All of our renovation projects meet ADA compliance and will continue to do so moving forward."

Roe's statement also said the hospital is " ... continuing to work with the City and County of Honolulu on addressing any ADA concerns and ensuring them that our renovations do meet the requirements for disability access."

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