WAILUKU, Hawaii — A health care provider plans to spend more than $50 million to expand three Hawaii hospitals.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii says it will expand services, update technology and aim to improve patient care after it takes over the hospitals on July 1.

Kaiser will assume control of Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lanai Community Hospital, and pledges to inject more resources into the facilities which serve about 200,000 residents and visitors.

“The public is generally excited and anxious for this transition to take place, not necessarily because Kaiser’s going to become this great thing on Day 1 but because we’ve been in this process for so long,” said Avery Chumbley, Maui region board chairman for the hospitals. “This is a significant transaction. It’s transformational in many ways because this is the single largest move from public employees to private employees in the history of the state.”

Hawaii’s largest health-maintenance organization is working to fill hundreds of positions left vacant during the uncertainty about ownership. The transfer of the hospitals was delayed because of a series of setbacks, including lawsuits by employee union United Public Workers to stop the privatization because of existing collective bargaining contracts, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2rJidJ2 ).

Kaiser said it is committed to improving access to care in Maui County, so that patients have the ability to get care where they live instead of having to be transferred to Honolulu hospitals.

Kaiser also has promised to keep the facilities open to the public, including non-Kaiser members and doctors, and operate as community hospitals.

The health care provider and insurer is recruiting trauma and orthopedic surgeons, critical care doctors and specialists including gastroenterologists and neurosurgeons, said Dr. David Ulin, chief medical director of Maui Health System, the operating company for the hospitals.

“Recruiting on Maui is still very difficult,” Ulin said. “Maui has a shortage of about 100 plus doctors, about a 25 percent deficit in the amount of physicians we should have.”

Kaiser extended about 1,500 job offers to current hospital staff, 97 percent of whom have accepted the positions, said Jean Melnikoff, Kaiser’s vice president of human resources.

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.