KAPOLEI, Hawaii (KHON2) — One of the many health concerns during the pandemic is the lack of people coming in for regular checkups, including a potentially life-saving colonoscopy. There is a new facility on Oahu that makes the procedure convenient and safe, however.

“So this is the scope that we use for colonoscopy, it’s a long, flexible tube, very smooth, has a light source,” said Dr. Mel Ona, gastroenterologist at Ohana Endoscopy Clinic.

It may not be the most pleasant topic of conversation, but it is something that most people need to do at one time or another. All of that is why Dr. Ona is making it easy.

“Yeah, we’re relaly excited about this facility. It’s Hawaii’s first and only office-based endoscopy facility where we can do upper endoscopy and colonoscopy, these are procedures that we do in gastroenterology.”

Dr. Ona says his facility, built right between grocery stores and fast food restaurantes in the Kapolei strip mall, is actually the perfect place for this type of clinic.

“We have a state of the art facility, we have top of the line equipment and optics and imaging, and also even the entire facility is negative pressure,” Dr. Ona said.

Dr. Ona was born in Boston and raised in upstate New York, although it looks like he could be a local boy. His father — who helps him how — ran a free endoscopy clinic in the Philippines many years ago and settled in Hawaii 20 years ago.

“I got married here and my wife and I have been visiting a lot,” Dr. Ona said. “So I thought, ‘might as well settle here, it would be a dream.’ And it has been so far.”

Dr. Ona built the entire space from scratch and opened his doors for business in the middle of the pandemic.

“Indeed it was a marathon sprint,” Dr. Ona said. “We essentially got the lease at the beginning of 2020 and started to build out in the summer of 2020 and then in four short months we did the first procedure on October 30th of 2020, and we’ve been growing ever since.”

He says the key to success is simple.

“The people will come if you offer excellent and compassionate care. And that’s always been my focus and the focus of the practice,” he said. “We treat every patient like they’re VIP’s and I think to do that requires a family, that’s why we call it ‘ohana.’ So, I think I surround myself with people like family, I don’t call them my coworkers or colleagues, they’re my family.”

Dr. Ona wants to remind Hawaii’s families that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It is the perfect time to address something that has been put off because of the pandemic.

“Colorectal cancer is the number two killer in this country and in fact, if you could file stadium with 50,000 people every year, that’s how many people die of colon cancer and it’s a preventable cancer,” Dr. Ona said.