Central Oahu communities call on lawmakers to save Wahiawa General

Central Oahu communities call on lawmakers to save Wahiawa General
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Central Oahu residents are calling on legislators to help save Wahiawa General Hospital, which is in danger of closing down because of financial problems.

The community hospital sees more than 20,000 patients in the emergency room each year, and is the only hospital in Central Oahu.

Hospital administrators say two measures in the state House are the only way they'll be able to stay open.

The concurrent resolutions urge lawmakers and the governor to provide $3 million for the hospital for the next two years. The funds, they say, will help them restructure and give them time to partner with a bigger hospital or become a state hospital.

"We have a high-need community, 85 percent of our patients are on Medicaid or Medicare," said State Rep. Marcus Oshiro, whose district includes Wahiawa. "This is a population of former agricultural workers ... retirees from government service and, of course, veterans who live in our community."

If the hospital is forced to close, patients would have to drive to the Queen's Medical Center-West Oahu or Pali Momi Medical Center. Both are at least 13 miles away.

"It can be as much as 20 to 30 minutes without traffic to be able to get to the next emergency room, so having this here is critical for us," said Nicholas Vandenraadt, from Waialua, who was at the emergency room Friday for a surfing injury. "With traffic, it's like another hour."

Don Olden, the CEO of the hospital, says the extra drive time could be the difference between life and death for someone suffering from a heart attack or stroke.

"Ten minutes is critically important so you don't want to be driving for half an hour or an hour," he said.

The community hospital is struggling to make payroll for its more than 600 employees.

Oshiro says there is no reason why the state Legislature and governor shouldn't come up with the funds so the hospital can stay open for now.

"It's a drop in a bucket -- $3 million is a very, very small amount of money for lives."

Thousands of people have signed petitions or submitted testimony urging lawmakers to fund the hospital. Both resolutions cleared the House Committee on Health last week. The full House will vote on the resolutions next week. If both pass, they will be heard by the House Committee on Finance.

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