Kona Community Hospital CEO Jay Kreuzer on Tuesday announced a number of initiatives that are designed to improve healthcare to the Hawaii Island community. They’re also designed to increase efficiency and improve the hospital’s financial performance. The key points include recruiting new physicians and adding specialties, and beginning the work to build a new hospital.
Kruezer also announced that for the first time since 1997, Kona Community Hospital ended its year with a profit of $1.6 million, instead of losing money.
Relative to building a new hospital, Kreuzer says the planning will take six months. The current hospital is aging and lacks sufficient space to grow current clinical services or to add new services. The hospital’s plan to continue to acquire state-of-the-art equipment, attract new physicians and increase efficiency will require a new, modernized physical infrastructure. The hospital has contracted consultant Peter Adler, PhD, who is also doing a health study of the impact of geothermal on residents near the Puna Geothermal Plant. Dr. Adler will gather input from key stakeholders including the public and the healthcare and business communities. The work actually began with employee meetings on Monday and Tuesday.
Questions to be answered include where the new hospital should be located, what services are important, and what should be done with the current hospital, which has been at its current site since 1914. But as the population has shifted from South Kona to North Kona, the new hospital will likely be close to Kona Airport. Developer Stanford Carr has offered to donate 40 acres to the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to build a new hospital. The property would be in Kaloko Makai, close to the new Ane Keohokalole Highway, also called the mid-level highway. A new facility would probably be built within ten years and be double the size of the current 94-bed hospital.
The existing hospital could be used for a long-term care facility and could also be used for services such as oncology treatments.
State Senator Josh Green, D-Kona, who is also the only physician in the legislature, said “After major progress in the West Hawaii region over the last several years, with the addition of the West Hawaii Community Health Center, the Civic Center, the beginnings of the Community College and the new Kona Courthouse (for which initial funding is in place), the logical next major improvement for our community is a new Kona hospital in the area where we have experienced massive growth.
“We are now successfully expanding our physician base through Alii Health and Kaiser’s investment in Kona, and the new loan repayment program for primary care physicians in rural Hawaii will also add docs to West Hawaii. These gains will match our population expansion.
“All of these developments suggest the time is ripe to pursue a new hospital near the airport and to repurpose the older facility to focus heavily on emergency services, long term care and key outpatient healthcare like physical therapy.”
An additional initiative for Kona Community Hospital is their physician recruitment plan. The goal is to attract and retain specialists based on community need. KCH currently has 65 active practitioners who represent 22 specialties. Kreuzer released a list of 16 recently-recruited doctors, with specialties including cardiology, urology, ophthalmology, hospitalist, orthopedics, emergency medicine, and more.
Another is the hospital’s partnership with Maui Heart and Vascular (MHV) to open the MHV Kona Clinic on the KCH campus. Hawaii County has limited cardiac care, and also has the highest rates of death from coronary heart disease in the state. This partnership addresses these issues. The cardiology clinic provides patients with on-island access to wide-ranging diagnostics and non-invasive treatment of cardiovascular disease. If more extensive services are required, patients can be referred to the multi-disciplinary team at Maui Memorial Medical Center (MMMC).
Dr. Andrew Rosenblum, a non-invasive cardiologist with specific training in cardiac ultrasound and arrhythmias, is currently seeing patients weekly each Wednesday. To date, Dr. Rosenblum has provided outpatient services at the new clinic to 60 new patients. Thoracic surgeon, Dr. Michael Dang has seen 42 new patients.
Minutes count during a cardiac emergency, making transit times critical. Because of this, Kona Community Hospital has contracted with Hawaii Life Flight to receive a medically equipped, over- water helicopter. By the end of November, the helicopter will be stationed at the Kona Airport. It will be dedicated to Kona Community Hospital, and will be specifically used for facility to facility patient transfers. The KCH trauma team will coordinate patient transfers with the Hawaii Life Flight critical care crew. This dedicated helicopter will give cardiac patients 24/7 access to emergency transfer from KCH. Additionally, it will cut transit time down from 4 hours it currently takes to transport a patient to Oahu, to about one hour..
Founded in 1914, KCH is a 94-bed full-service acute care hospital with 24-hour emergency department recently designated as a Level III trauma center supporting the west region of the island of Hawaii. The current building dates from 1975. KCH is a member of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, a special agency of the state of Hawaii established in 1996. It is fully accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. KCH is dedicated to providing and enhancing accessible comprehensive healthcare services to the West Hawaii community.