Thousands petition to keep Wahiawa General Hospital open

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Dozens rallied at the State Capitol Wednesday in support of Wahiawa General Hospital as financial troubles threaten to shut it down.

CEO Don Olden previously told KHON2 the hospital was able to survive by digging money out of “reserves,” but that money has since run out.

He believes the hospital could turn things around if the state grants an emergency fund of $6 million over the next two years.

“It’s not that the hospital has been frivolous with the money, it’s just that the reimbursements are down,” said Tammy Kohrer, director of nursing at Wahiawa General Hospital. “It’s pretty hard to stay in existence without being part of a big health system now.”

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Health approved two resolutions, HCR 118 and HR 73, that call for “immediate and emergent financial assistance” for the hospital.

Lawmakers also received overwhelming testimony in support of keeping the hospital open.

“The support from the employees has been fabulous. They rallied,” said Kohrer. “I think we found out on Friday that the hearing was going to be today, and everybody went out over the weekend, on their own time, got signatures, petitions for support. We got over, I think we’re almost at 7,000, so they have been more than supportive in wanting to keep their hospital alive.”

Olden previously said Wahiawa General has been losing money ever since Queen’s Medical Center – West Oahu in Ewa Beach opened in 2014, taking away a large chunk of patients. Supporters argued Wednesday that Wahiawa General provides key services that Queen’s Medical Center does not.

“They do not do dialysis at their hospital, so they often call us because we do provide for dialysis patients,” explained Arlene Pack, a retired supervisor at Wahiawa General. “As many know, kidney disease is a big part of our community. We have the highest rate of kidney disease, and there are a lot of people on dialysis, where West will not take them as in-patients.”

“We have a long-term care facility. Right now, there’s 107 residents who live there. Over half of them call it their home. Where are we going to put them? What are we going to do?” said Diane Canon, retired RN, Wahiawa General Hospital. “They don’t want to travel. They want to remain in the community where they feel safe and supported, and that’s what we’re there for.”

The resolutions now go to the full House floor for a vote and, if approved, head to the House Committee on Finance.

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