Don’t say we didn’t warn you. In our Nov. 13, 2014 and Jan. 29, 2015 cover stories, we reported that the financial situation at Maui Memorial Medical Center, and the rest of the Maui hospital region as a whole, was pretty grim.
According to Wesley Lo, the Maui region CEO for the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (which oversees hospitals throughout Hawaii), the Maui region will likely end fiscal year 2015 with a $46.3 million deficit. Last year, the region saw a $38.2 million loss. Next year, Lo said during a Nov. 10, 2014 public hearing in Kahului, hospitals in Maui County will lose nearly $40 million, and another $46 million in 2017.
“Current budget estimates anticipate that the deficits will continue to grow exponentially year after year,” stated a Nov. 5 Maui Memorial press release. “This may leave [the] Maui County population vulnerable to drastic cuts in available services and jobs, and families with little other option than to fly to Oahu for care.”
Well, the HHSC Maui Region Board approved $28 million in cuts to services and positions at their meeting last week. “As administrators, as parents and involved citizens in this community, this is a path we have refused to accept in response to the continued financial shortfalls of our region, however, it is now time to address this issue head on, and that involves accepting the reality of our situation,” Lo said in a Mar. 27 news release. “The cuts to our hospitals, facilities, staffing and services we provide our communities, will set us back 20 years.”
Though alarming, the news release was vague on specifics. For instance, it noted that while the region would “immediately” cut 50-75 “non-clinical administrative positions,” these cuts would “only save the region a nominal amount compared to the shortfall cited by the board.”
Lo was more specific in a Mar. 28 Maui News story (sub. req.), saying current services like the valet parking and public food service would go. According to the paper, cuts to “oncology, cardiology, obstetrics and gynecology” are also “on the table.”
If you’ve been paying attention for the last few months, you’re probably asking why the Maui Region is suddenly–after years of running deficits that the state Legislature has steadily refused to make up with appropriations–only now making big cuts. A big part of the reason might be that HB 1075–a bill that would authorize “the Maui Regional System to enter into an agreement with a private entity to transition one or more of its facilities into a new private Hawaii nonprofit corporation”–is still making its way through the state Legislature. Though certainly not guaranteed to pass into law, the bill is still very much alive.
According to The Maui News, Lo “acknowledged that opponents of the bill may consider the budget cut an attempt to sway legislators, but he believes that ‘any businessman should plan for this eventuality.’”
Of course, should HB 1075 pass, Lo said the board would “re-evaluate” the cuts, The Maui News reported.
Photo of Maui Memorial Medical Center: Darris Hurst