Molokai’s health center moves ahead
After shutting down construction on its new site two weeks ago, the Molokai Community Health Center (MCHC) will be receiving $500,000 in state funds by the end February. The news came via a video message from Rep. Mele Carroll, author of the original $1 million bill which passed in 2009, but have been withheld due to red tape. Although the amount represents half of the center’s appropriated funding, administrators say it is enough to complete initial construction of the seaside facility.
“I assure you I am working with Gov. Abercrombie so that your one million dollars will be released,” Carroll said.
“We’re 93 percent done,” said Cyrus Siu, chief financial officer (CFO) of MCHC. He added that after the organization receives the funding, phase one can be completed in 60 days.
The health center’s remaining $500,000 is being withheld until a comprehensive health care plan can be crafted by on-island health care providers, according to state officials.
“The plans are necessary from a community perspective, to make sure we are maximizing the resources available in the community, and avoid duplication,” said Loretta Fuddy, acting director of the state Department of Health (DOH).
However, DOH officials had initially withheld the appropriation citing “a lack of collaboration between MCHC and the Molokai General Hospital (MGH).” In 2010, a state mediator conducted talks between MCHC and MGH – but the talks did not include other on-island care providers.
“When it comes to people’s lives, there is no competition,” said Judy Caparida, a founding board member of MCHC.
Desiree Puhi, executive director of MCHC, has often stated the ways the organization has partnered with other providers, such as referrals and grant proposal collaboration.
“The emphasis is what is best for residents, [and] how to best utilize what is available,” Fuddy said. The DOH is currently looking for a facilitator to run the meetings discussing the comprehensive plans, and Fuddy said she expects talks to begin in March. She said all providers will be invited including MCHC, Na Pu`uwai, MGH, Molokai Drugs, and Liberty Dialysis.
Since construction was shut down in early February due to lack of funds, MCHC has asked Molokai residents to call and write letters to the Gov. Abercrombie, imploring him to release the funding. Staff presented MCHC’s history and its projected future with about 100 residents at a community meeting last week.
Matt Yamashita, vice president of the executive board, said the meeting was intended to get feedback from the community, and MCHC had prepared to clear up some common “misconceptions.”
For instance, community members have questioned whether Molokai really needs more health care services.
“This population cannot support a hospital, or two,” said Jane Lee, a MGH trustee and a co-founder of Na Pu`uwai. “We’re broke as a state; we cannot continue to maintain a system dependent on grants.”
Puhi said this is not the case.
“We have a partnership with the federal government, [MCHC is] not grant reliant.”
Community health centers are an initiative of the Bush administration, and Sen. Dan Inouye was integral in helping bring federal funding to set up MCHC in 2003, according to Billy Akutagawa, a founding board member of MCHC.
“While [community health centers] aren’t new, it’s the trend of the future,” Puhi said. “They’re spreading like wildfire.”
Rosie Davis, president of MCHC executive board of directors, said nearly a thousand letters and emails were sent to the governor in the past few weeks.
“Please don’t stop supporting us – we need your continued support,” she said at the meeting.
Collaboration vs. Competition
Other community health centers in the state, such as Waimanalo Health Center on Oahu, have also received federal funding to serve their medically underserved population. However, CFO Siu said he did not know of any other community health centers that had funding contingent on a community plan with other providers.
“[MCHC] is not the first community health center in a small community,” he said.
Puhi said MGH has emergency services, internal medicine, women’s health, chemotherapy, and radiology among their services that MCHC does not; MCHC has the only pediatrician and doctor of osteopathy on-island, and provides dental and behavioral health services which the hospital does not.
“We will see anyone,” added Kawika Liu, MCHC medical director. “Others have no obligation to see [the patient] without insurance.”
The 2010 talks between MCHC and MGH produced a pledge of collaboration between the two providers which Fuddy said is very encouraging. “The [DOH] is involved in many efforts for community planning.”
MGH president Janice Kalanihuia issued a written statement regarding the hospital’s participation.
“[MGH] has had discussions with [MCHC] to determine ways of collaboration to improve the delivery of health care services to the people of Molokai and ensure that there are no duplication of services to our community. These discussions have taken place over the past year and were supported by the Department of Health. MGH’s primary interest is to work with all community providers to serve as best as possible the needs of the people of Molokai.”
The new facility, called Oceanside Health and Wellness Center at the old Pau Hana Inn site on 5.9 acres, would allow MCHC to better serve its 3,000 and growing patients, and provide a broad spectrum of services and maximize its partnerships with other organizations, according to a company press release. The clinic is currently operating out of a tight space in the Kamoi Center, while administrative offices are located several blocks away.
Once construction is complete, MCHC will move on to phases two and three. Phase two allows for the inclusion of non-Western and traditional healing partners, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care. Phase three will provide a ‘gathering place’ for the community to enjoy live music, non-alcoholic drinks and healthy snacks. Speakers, videos and slam poetry are on the agenda for this area, according to Liu.
Community Health Center Goes to the Community
District meetings at 5:30 p.m.
March 9 Maunaloa Rec Center
March16 Mitchell Pauole Center
March 23 Kualapu`u Rec Center
March 30 Kilohana Elementary
A Letter from MCHC
Molokai Community Health Center Governing Board and staff would like to send a heartfelt mahalo for the overwhelming support of our expansion project. Over 100 Molokai residents participated in the educational rally held on Feb. 16. We hope that all who participated left better informed. We would also like to mahalo the 1,000+ residents who sent letters, emails and voice messages to Governor Neil Abercrombie in support of the release the $1 million Grant in Aid that Linda Lingle withheld. Our community’s support gives us strength moving forward!
We also acknowledge and mahalo our many island leaders that have passionately advocated for the Molokai Community Health Center and believe in our mission to “promote and provide accessible comprehensive individual and community health care to the people of Molokai with respect and aloha.” We are proud to be governed by the community and remain steadfast in improving health care on Molokai. Finally, we thank Rep. Mele Carroll and Honorable Governor Neil Abercrombie. Their openness and willingness to listen to facts and come to fair and equitable conclusions are a breath of fresh air. MAHALO!
Me ka ha` aha`a,
Molokai Community Health Center Board and Staff