Long Term Care Review Underway in East Hawai‘i

Hilo, Hawaii – Hospital officials in East Hawai`i are reviewing long term care services now provided at Hilo Medical Center, Hale Ho`ola Hamakua in Honoka`a and Ka`u Hosptial.

“We are looking at how we can best serve patients living in our Extended Care Facility. Is it time to close outdated facilities? Will our more modern East Hawaii Region facilities improve the quality of life for our patients? What are the financial implications and how might this affect our employees? These are the questions we are examining with regard to our Extended Care Facility (ECF) in Hilo,” said Dan Brinkman, East Hawaii Regional CEO of HHSC. “No final decisions have been made and let me reassure you that no one has been forced, pressured or asked to leave our facility."

To meet a forecasted budget shortfall, last fall the East Hawaii Region put in motion a cost savings plan that included downsizing the Extended Care Facility in Hilo from 90 to 70 beds. Staying true to its mission as East Hawai‘i’s healthcare safety net, admissions accepts patients who cannot afford the services of a care home or private nursing home facility in the community. These patients and their families are offered a choice between Hale Ho`ola Hamakua, Ka`u Hospital and, as a last resort, the Extended Care Facility in Hilo.

“Our Board asked for a 360-degree review of our long term care facilities and services. They requested detailed information in order to inform their deliberations,” said Brinkman. “From the beginning of this process, we have maintained open and transparent communication including ongoing discussions with staff and the larger community.”

“Each year the Region loses between $6 and $7 million operating the aged and uncomfortable Extended Care Facility,” added Brinkman. “Is there a better way to provide these specialized services? These are the questions we are asking ourselves internally and we welcome input from the community.”

This past December, the Regional Board directed the management team to review the financial and community impact of possible changes in long term care services provided in East Hawai‘i. For some time, the Board has been concerned about the Extended Care Facility in Hilo and believes it falls far short of acceptable standards of accommodation and care for the community.

As the governing body of the public hospitals throughout East Hawai‘i, the Board is first and foremost concerned with fulfilling its safety net mission to provide access to care to all, regardless of the ability to pay.

Background on Long Term Care Facilities in East Hawai‘i

The Extended Care Facility, which was built in 1965 in Hilo, does not meet modern standards and has no central air conditioning. Up to 8 residents live in 2 wards that consist of 4 beds and share a common bathroom with no shower. The Honoka‘a facility, built in 1995, is modern, air conditioned and meets all long term care standards. At this facility, two residents share a large room and a private bath. In 2010, the Maile Wing was added to expand to today’s current bed capacity of 66 long term care beds with extraordinary views of the Hamakua Coast. 

Two years ago, Ka`u Hospital renovated the 21-bed facility in Pahala originally built in 1971, when it received $4.7 million to modernize and install central air conditioning. The renovation has greatly increased the quality of life for patients. Similar to the Honoka`a facility, two residents share a large room and a private bathroom.


About the East Hawaii Region of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation

As the Big Island’s leading providers of inpatient and outpatient care, the East Hawaii Region of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC), consisting of Hilo Medical Center, Hale Ho′ola Hamakua and Ka′u Hospital, delivers a full range of services and programs. Our three hospitals include 373 beds and over 1,300 employees. Our medical staff is 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 44,000 patients annually. Hale Ho′ola Hamakua and Ka′u Hospital are designated as Critical Access Hospitals.

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