State hospitals grapple with long-term care costs

Published: Feb. 9, 2016 at 10:37 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2016 at 11:43 PM HST
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Leahi Hospital patients
Leahi Hospital patients

KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A budget crisis at state-owned hospitals has left some long-term care patients in the lurch.

And a citizen's group is asking lawmakers to help fix the situation.

Leahi and Maluhia hospitals cut 76 beds last year, discharging a handful of residents, and also let 42 employees go.

Hawaii Health Systems is asking lawmakers for $21 million for all of its facilities. Some of those funds could help maintain present services and prevent more cuts at Maluhia and Leahi.

But a citizen's group wants the bed count restored.

"There's 25 percent fewer hospital long-term care beds now," said Vanessa Chong, of Protect Leahi and Maluhia Ohana.

Chong collected 5,300 signatures for a petition urging lawmakers to give the hospitals $10 million more than they're asking for.

"What's most disturbing to us families is the potential reality of possibly more cuts happening," she said.

Hawaii Health Systems Oahu Region CEO Derek Akiyoshi said it's a tough situation. "We've shared a number of times with our families and with our employees the financial dire position that we're currently facing," he said.

The daily care cost per resident is about $400. But Medicaid reimbursements cover only about $200 a day.

"We're very dependent on government subsidy because 90 percent of our residents are Medicaid recipients," Akiyoshi said.

The low reimbursement rate contributed to the hospitals' $3.3 million deficit in fiscal year 2016.

Randy Funn's aunt is a resident at Leahi, and said the hospital has become a "safety net."

"Finding the right place is difficult," Funn said.

Akiyoshi appreciates the community concern but he believes restoring the beds would only be a temporary fix. "In subsequent years we'd be faced with deficits even greater because of the increasing costs and the relatively flat reimbursement rate of Medicaid," he said.

Akiyoshi notes that some of the displaced residents were re-admitted. Some are on a waiting list.

Meanwhile, the hospitals are focusing on other community-based services separate from in-patient long term care.

"Hopefully, we can create a little bit more sustainable model going forward and reduce our dependence on the government subsidies that we currently receive," Akiyoshi said.

Leahi and Maluhia will take in new admissions as space becomes available.

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