Senate unveils plan to save Wahiawa General

Senate unveils plan to save Wahiawa General
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Wahiawa General Hospital needed a miracle.

Without a financial bailout, the Central Oahu hospital was at risk of shutting down in the next six to nine months.

But on Tuesday, the hospital got good news: The Senate Ways and Means Committee unveiled a proposal for a short-term cash infusion aimed at keeping Central Oahu's only acute-care hospital open.

"This is literally life and death," said state Rep. Marcus Oshiro, whose district includes Wahiawa.

That was certainly the case for 94-year-old Josephine Honda, who was rushed to Wahiawa General last August for emergency surgery.

"It was the hospital that was close by at the time of my need that saved my life. We need the hospital. It is very important that we have the hospital in Wahiawa," Honda said.

Lawmakers agree.

"A lot of people depend on Wahiawa General Hospital," said state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, who was born at the hospital.

"Wahiawa is the closest hospital for anyone on the North Shore and it's not just residents. There's a lot of visitors that are on the North Shore that might need some health care access. It's important to keep health care in rural communities," added Dela Cruz, who is chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Under the state Senate's proposal, the state would buy the hospital's two parking lots and then lease them back to Wahiawa General for a nominal fee.

"That $5 million would get us through a period of time to redesign and reassess the hospital and try to come up with a new business model for it," said Wahiawa General CEO Don Olden.

It's not a done deal, but supporters of Wahiawa General who flooded the state Legislature on Tuesday were optimistic

"We had over 7,000 positive testimony supporting the hospital in a matter of three to four days -- and showing up today we had over 150 people with 'Save Our Wahiawa General' t-shirts," Oshiro said.

Doctors say the hospital also serves a critical role in educating future health care professionals. "It's a teaching facility and if you don't have a place where people can go to school and learn their profession, then who is going to take care of us?" asked Norman Polk, a radiologist at Wahiawa General.

Wahiawa General provides emergency services for about 20,000 people each year.

Dela Cruz said while the state Senate plan buys the hospital some time, it's up to the hospital to decide how to move forward.

"The board of directors really needs to do some soul-searching on how they're going to come up with a new plan long-term to redefine what Wahiawa General's role is going to be and how it's going to be sustainable," Dela Cruz said.

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