Clinic Funding to be Released
Last week, Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced he would release a partial amount of a $1 million grant allocated to the Molokai Community Health Center (MCHC) for renovations of a new clinic. However, a spokesperson for the governor said a comprehensive health care plan, written between the health center and Molokai General Hospital (MGH), must be completed before any funding will be released.
The grant was approved by the legislature in 2009, with no requirements relating to an agreement between health care providers on Molokai. The bill calls solely for the funding of “plans, design, construction and equipment to renovate, retrofit and provide other improvements for an expanded facility,” according to the document obtained from MCHC.
“There were no preconditions in 2009, when the grant was appropriated by the legislature,” said Kawika Liu, MCHC medical director. Abercrombie’s office said “up to $500,000” will be released within the next few months.
An Issue of Collaboration
The idea of requiring a comprehensive health plan as a condition to the release of the funding came from the Department of Health (DOH) under the former Lingle Administration, according to documents shared with the Dispatch.
After construction had begun last July, the DOH called for a meeting between MGH and MCHC, and asked the two providers to collaborate on a comprehensive health care plan for the island in relation to competition of services.
The Dispatch could not reach MGH representatives for comment.
Initially, MCHC board members agreed to the process, but asked for all of Molokai’s health care providers to be involved – Na Pu`uwai, Molokai Family Health Center, and private physicians and dentists. In a letter dated October 25, 2010 the DOH responded, but said the meeting was “to specifically address issues between Molokai General Hospital, MCHC and private physicians on-island because of concerns that the Governor (Lingle) has about the apparent lack of collaboration between these entities.”
“But [we] cannot negotiate [with] just the hospital and MCHC,” said Liu, explaining the action would break antitrust laws. Liu added that MCHC had previous partnerships with MGH and other health care providers on the island, and that a formal plan between just MGH and MCHC seemed imbalanced.
DOH representatives were not available for comment.
A Lack of Follow-Through
Instead, in December 2010, Liu said a general pledge of collaboration was signed by MGH’s president, Janice Kalanihuia, and MCHC Executive Director, Desiree Puhi. Both parties pledged to communicate, including meetings between boards, as a sign of partnership.
“We were led to believe that this was what was needed for Lingle to release the funds,” said board member Matt Yamashita. “And it was a good thing, but by the time it was signed she had already left office.”
Last week, MCHC board members met with Abercrombie at the state capitol to “override” the DOH’s requirement for a comprehensive plan.
“Requiring the MCHC to do this plan right now is unfair and unrelated to the release of our funding,” Yamashita added. “It shouldn’t have anything to do with our funding. It doesn’t make sense.”
And while MCHC has said a health care plan for the island would be a good idea, “it’s not something you can do in a short amount of time,” Liu said.
“In terms of the Abercrombie administration, he really believes people in all departments can work together for the common good of public,” said Donalyn Dela Cruz, Abercrombie’s press secretary. By working together, MGH and MCHC can be “more efficient in offering better public services.”
Time Running Out
“The money has been tied up too long,” Yamashita said. “Lingle had us jump through all sorts of hoops to get it released, but it never happened, which is why we had to shut down the project.”
Rosie Davis, president of the MCHC board, said she doesn’t think this stop order will have a huge effect on the completion timeline.
“The governor has been very supportive,” she added. “When he said he wanted a new day in Hawaii, he meant that…we see that.”
Davis said the support MCHC has received from the community, volunteers, the Abercrombie administration and Mele Carroll “has been incredible.”
The new facility, called Oceanside Health and Wellness Center at the old Pau Hana Inn site, would allow MCHC to better serve its 3,000 and growing patients, provide a broad spectrum of services and maximize its partnerships with other organizations, according to a company press release.
MCHC will be hosting an informational meeting open to the public on Feb. 16 at 5:30 p.m., at the Kulana `Oiwi Halau.