Protesters call for free health care for Native Hawaiians

Published: Jul. 16, 2016 at 10:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By Janelle Guerrero-Miguel

Protesters stood at the front entrance of Queen's Medical Center on Friday with signs demanding free medical care for Native Hawaiians.

They claim it was a part of a trust deal made centuries ago when Hawaiians were dying of foreign diseases.

Walter Ritte, who organized the protest, said that the center did not fulfill Queen Emma's promise.

"She not only formed the hospital, but she dedicated all of her lands, which is like some 10,000 acres or so, so that the hospital could have funding to last as long as it could last," Ritte said.

"Her lands have been privatized by a corporation," he said. "And what we have today is the Queen's Medical Center, which it has nothing to do with Hawaiians."

The hospital held their "Heritage Day" event to honor the founders of the center. Demonstrators said it is an insult to Hawaiians because they believe the hospital did the opposite.

"For me and for Queen's, it's about providing care for the people of Hawaii and Hawaiians and we do," said Dr. Gerard Akaka, Vice-President of Native Hawaiian Affairs at Queen's.

"I see Hawaiians in our rooms," he said. "I talk to them and they really appreciate the care."

Dr. Gerard said that there are complex issues at play, but the hospital must be financially viable in order to provide everlasting care.

"I think a lot of Native Hawaiians think that the lands and assets we have are enough to sustain the operation, but it's not," he said.

Queen's Medical Center is the largest private hospital in the state. It has more than 3,000 employees and over 1,200 physicians on staff.

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