Puna Community Medical Center Announces Affiliation with Hilo Medical Center

Pahoa, Hawaii – At their June board meeting, the Board of Directors of the non-profit Puna Community Medical Center (PCMC) executed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing an affiliation with Hilo Medical Center. The new affiliation with Hilo Medical Center will lend healthcare expertise and financial support to the conveniently located walk-in medical clinic that provides urgent care services to Pahoa and the surrounding Puna community.

“Members of the Puna Community Medical Center board initiated internal discussions last summer exploring what could be done to stabilize and expand medical services in an otherwise underserved community. PCMC provides excellent urgent care services, yet the need for our community is larger than our present capacity,” said PCMC Board Chair Ralph Boyea. “As our dialogue and due diligence progressed over a period of about six months, it became evident that an affiliation with Hilo Medical Center could be a win-win.”

In fiscal year 2015, 31% (or 14,620) of Hilo Medical Center’s emergency department visits were patients residing in Puna. “When we dove deep into the numbers, we identified 4,671 of these emergency department patients who were from Puna and had minor health issues that could have been cared for adequately at PCMC. The East Hawaii Regional Board agreed that sustaining healthcare services in Puna is a regional priority,” said Dr. Daniel Belcher, East Hawaii Regional Board Chair. “Encouraging the flow of patients with minor health issues to nearby local providers will appeal to Puna residents and the resulting decrease in lower level ER visits will increase efficiency at Hilo Medical Center’s Emergency Room.”

“Stabilizing PCMC’s financial health and growing healthcare services and providers in Puna is vital for community wellbeing,” said Dan Brinkman, East Hawaii Regional CEO of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation. “Hilo Medical Center will be working together with the Puna community, obtaining the input of community leaders and our elected officials so as to better expand and advance Puna’s healthcare services. This is a challenge that will take creativity and endurance, and it aligns with our mission of providing safety net healthcare services to East Hawaii.”

Puna Community Medical Center, which opened in 2009, is located in the Pahoa Marketplace. PCMC will retain its employees and continue to provide the community with urgent care services as changes in organizational governance occur in July. 

“We are confident that the healthcare future for Puna residents is improving and our hope is that we can expand both emergency services and primary care. Our affiliation is a great opportunity to work with an established healthcare organization while still retaining our unique Puna identity” added Boyea.

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About the Hilo Medical Center

As the Big Island’s leading providers of inpatient and outpatient care, the East Hawai’i Region of Hawai’i Health Systems Corporation (HHSC), consisting of Hilo Medical Center, a 4-star rated acute hospital by Centers for Medicaid & Medicare, Hale Ho′ola Hamakua, a 5-star rated nursing home by CMS, and Ka′u Hospital, delivers a full range of services and programs. Our three hospitals include 373 beds and over 1,300 employees and a medical staff comprised of 250 physicians, physician assistants and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, representing 33 specialties. The region has a network of 10 outpatient clinics offering primary and specialty care. Hilo Medical Center functions as a Level III Trauma Center, which includes the second busiest emergency room in the state, providing 24-hour care and serving more than 48,000 patients annually. Hale Ho′ola Hamakua and Ka′u Hospital are designated as Critical Access Hospitals.

The East Hawai’i Region of HHSC is part of the Hawai’i Health Systems Corporation, a public entity established in 1996 by the State of Hawai’i to fulfill the promise to provide quality, hometown healthcare. For more information, go to: www.hilomedicalcenter.org, www.halehoolahamkua.org or www.kauhospital.org.

About PCMC

The Puna Community Medical Center [PCMC] was established in 2009.  We are a grassroots, non-profit, walk-in medical clinic that provides urgent care services.  Our clinic is conveniently located in the Pahoa Marketplace.   It is our mission to provide readily accessible health care to the residents of, and visitors to, the Puna District.  Our vision is to create local health facilities that address the immediate and long term health and wellness needs of the community; starting with our walk-in acute care clinic and ultimately creating a comprehensive health center that provides competent and compassionate services to all those seeking care.  We are a community directed, non-profit organization supported by individual donations, fee for service payments, and community grants.  We accept all insurances, credit cards, cash, or check for payment. For those with a limited ability to pay, there is a sliding fee scale.

In 2014, the state DNLR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) gave us a sixty-five year lease on five acres of land in Pahoa (along the Highway 130 corridor) for the construction of an expanded facility, which will include an Emergency Room.  The state has allocated $750,000 for a planning grant to develop the planning for the ER.  The grant is through the Senate’s Ways & Means Committee and is being channeled through state DOH (Department of Health). For more information, go to: http://punahealth.org.

PCMC History

The development of PCMC began in 2006 as part of the PCDP (Puna Community Development Plan).  One of the committees was “Infrastructure,” which included healthcare facilities.  The PCDP was approved by the County Council in August 2008.  By that time we had already formed a 501(c) non-profit corporation, recruited board members from the community, raised money from a variety of sources, and hired a Clinical Director, Physician and other staff. 

We opened our doors in the Pahoa Marketplace in February 2009. Our doors have been open seven days/week ever since with the exception of the lava flow interruption that occurred in 2015.  We had to close for several days to facilitate a move to a temporary location and 6 months later back to our permanent location. As of June, 2015, we have had over thirty-four thousand medical encounters (visits).

The future is looking bright.  The state DNLR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) has given us a sixty-five year lease on five acres of land in Pahoa (along the Highway 130 corridor) for the construction of an expanded facility, which will include an Emergency Room.  The state has allocated $750,000 for a planning grant to develop the planning for the ER.  The grant is through the Senate’s Ways & Means Committee and is being channeled through state DOH (Department of Health).

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