HONOLULU (KHON2) — After sitting empty for more than a year after it was built, the Hawaii State Hospital’s $160 million psychiatric ward is still largely unused. Officials said the facility will not be fully occupied until the end of June.
Officials with the State Hospital were grilled by lawmakers in April and were astounded that patients were still not moved to the new building. But the lawmakers were reassured the patients would start moving in phases within a couple of weeks and that the facility would be fully occupied by May.
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According to officials, so far 34 patients have moved in.
“It is very frustrating! The legislature put the money in, put the resources in, we had this beautiful building designed and built — and it was left unfilled,” said Rep. Ryan Yamane, chairman of the House Health Committee.
Yamane said the problems that caused the initial delay are still ongoing. Doors and hinges need to be replaced because patients can use them to hurt themselves. Drainage in the showers is still not working properly.
State Department of Health officials said like a lot of other people, they’re dealing with supply chain issues and are having a hard time getting supplies. But they said contractors have assured them that everything will be fixed by the end of May.
“So we should be ready to move in another 72 or 80 patients to not overwhelm the building and the staff and patients,” said Dr. Run Heidelberg, State Hospital Administrator.
Heidelberg added that everyone else that needs to be moved into the new facility will be there by the end of June. There are currently 242 patients at the State Hospital and the maximum capacity is supposed to be 200. Yamane is concerned that the delay combined with the overcrowding could lead to more problems.
“The State Hospital staff and the system right now is actually having more patients than they’ve ever had before on average,” said Yamane. “So even without the transition to a new building, it has put a lot of strain on the staff.”
“Things have been going really well, we haven’t had any issues as far as assaults in the new building or anything like that. It’s really going well,” said Heidelberg.
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He said the situation will only get better as more patients move in starting next month.