,

Community Health Center Gets $4M Grant

The Molokai Community Health Center announced last week it was awarded a $4 million grant for the next four years by the Health Resources Services Administration to support primary care services.

“These grant dollars enable MCHC to continue to provide our comprehensive services to residents of Molokai, delivering much-needed care to our patients regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay,” MCHC CEO Helen Wescoatt said in a news release. “We look forward to working with our partners and patients to improve the health of the Molokai community.”

The award’s multi-year project period was granted to MCHC following a 2019 annual on-site review conducted by HRSA, according to a news release by the health center.

“The center demonstrated full compliance with its program requirements, including clinical staffing, quality assurance, required and additional health services, key management staff, board authority and composition, and financial management,” the release states.

The grant money comes from HRSA’s Service Area Competition program, and was received through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“The SAC funding ensures continued access to affordable, quality primary health care services for communities and vulnerable populations currently served by the Health Center Program,” HRSA’s website states.

In the last three years, MCHC’s operational budget has grown by 15 percent. The health center’s program funding is part of an award totaling $4.4 million annually, with 69 percent of its budget financed with non-federal resources, according to MCHC.

The sole federally qualified health center on Molokai, MCHC first opened its doors in March 2004. In August 2010, a groundbreaking ceremony attended by the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, former Sen. Daniel Akaka and former Gov. Linda Lingle set the clock for a 2011 relocation of the center to its current site, where the former Pau Hana Inn used to operate in Kaunakakai.

The health center, however, has been ensnared in controversy and community criticism last year.

A four-day closure last August prompted the community to ask for Wescoatt’s resignation. Health care providers employed by the center were also frustrated with management, staff shortage and working conditions.

Dr. Robert Van Gemert retired a year ago. In June 2019, Family Nurse Practitioner Dara Pagaduan left, and her husband, Blayne Asing, wrote a letter to The Molokai Dispatch citing bullying, harassment of employees and an inexperienced leadership. In August, a part-time provider from Big Island, Dr. Michelle Mitchell, resigned, citing the lack of tools to do her job caused unsafe conditions for patients and physicians. In late August, Family Nurse Practitioner Ty McComas called in sick and gave notice after being overburdened as the only full-time provider in the facility.

MCHC’s website shows there are currently two family nurse practitioners on staff, two dentists, a registered dental hygienist, a psychologist, and a licensed clinical social worker. MCHC also has an online ad seeking a full-time chief medical officer, a full-time registered nurse, a part-time physician, and a full-time dentist.

MCHC’s mission is “To provide and promote accessible comprehensive individual and community health care to the people of Molokai with respect and aloha.”

A request to MCHC for comment wasn’t responded by press time.

Share