The saber-rattling between Maui County’s hospitals and their many friends in the county and state Legislature on one hand and Governor David Ige and the powerful Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) that backs him on the other is getting serious. The future of Maui’s hospitals–most predominantly, Maui Memorial Medical Center–has been hanging over this legislative session with a sense of impending doom.
It all concerns HB 1075, SD2, which would allow Maui’s hospitals to merge with private entities. Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC), which runs the hospitals, loves it. Maui’s mayor and legislators love it. The bill had passed the Senate with amendments, and the House was on the verge of passing that amending version. But then Ige intervened. At an Apr. 21 press conference, Ige refused to be specific about his concerns over the bill, according to Honolulu Civil Beat, but called on legislators to confer this week over the bill.
“We are committed to moving a bill forward that provides us with the best opportunity for a public/private partnership and healthcare reform on Maui,” said Ige in a statement released shortly after the press conference. “We agree that we need to move forward on a public/private partnership in order to move our hospitals forward. There are some technical issues that we’ve agreed to work on together, to come up with a bill that will best serve the people of Hawai’i.”
This wasn’t at all fine for HHSC, which really, really wants HB 1075 SD2 to pass into law. Minutes after Ige concluded his press conference, HHSC’s public relations firm sent out a less than comforting news release:
After announcing a staggering $28 million dollar budget gap for Fiscal Year 2016, the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation’s (HHSC) Maui Region is organizing public meetings to take public input on the imminent service and position cuts and to start the reduction in force processes.
Oh yeah–through out this process, HHSC has been threatening massive, overwhelming layoffs and service cuts for Maui’s hospitals (which have been running large budget deficits for the past few years) in the event that they can’t merge with a private entity. Anyway, the first public meeting on hospital budget cuts takes place on Tuesday, Apr. 28 at Pu’u Kukui Elementary School in Wailuku. The meeting is scheduled to start at 5pm and run about two hours.
“The Administration’s recent interest in our legislation brings heightened scrutiny at the eleventh hour and some concern for its movement forward,” HHSC Maui Region CEO Wesley Lo said in that news release. “However, we must remain focused on the need to live within our budgetary restraints. July 1 is upon us and we must start to prepare for what we will be able to provide and the amount of service providers we can employ.”
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa has also gotten into the act. Here’s the text of a statement his office released yesterday afternoon:
I don’t know what Governor Ige’s concerns are about the hospital bill. We are trying to find out but I don’t want to speculate because we just don’t know.
What I do know is that HB 1075 is critical for Maui County residents because if it passes it will form a public-private partnership between Maui Memorial Medical Center and Hawaii Pacific Health to help deal with staggering fiscal losses of more than $800 million over the next 10 years.
For several years myself, our Maui legislators and other members of our community have been lobbying the state to do something about this fiscal shortfall. The time has come for the state to either put in the money to keep Maui Memorial running, or to allow another entity to take over operations.
For those of us who live in Maui County, there really isn’t anything more important than making sure we have quality health care for our friends and families. The challenges facing Maui Memorial can affect hospital staff, doctors, medical programs, equipment and procedures if the shortfall is not addressed. Maui Memorial is our only major hospital, and this bill is the best chance we have to keep it up and running.
Click here for my take on the Maui hospital crisis.
Click here for Wailuku writer Susan Halas’ take.
Photo of Maui Memorial Medical Center: Mauitime