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Maui Hospitals Transition to Kaiser stalls again; New date set for July 1, 2017

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The much postponed transition of Maui’s three public hospitals to Kaiser Permanent management hit a new setback today with the news that Kaiser has written a letter to Governor Ige to postpone the official start date until July 1, 2017.

In a letter (see below) dated Aug 28, 2016, Ray Hahn, senior vice president and hospital administrator for Maui Health System, a Kaiser Foundation Hospitals LLC wrote that because the state has been unable to resolve issues with the United Public Workers and the Hawaii Government Employees Association, another union representing workers at Maui Memorial Medical Center, Lanai Community Center and Kula Hospital “we are formally notifying you that a transfer date of November 6, 2016 is no longer possible.”

Hahn went on to say: “We believe that the ongoing uncertainty associated with repeatedly setting and cancelling potential closing dates, while not intended, is a disservice to the people of Maui and Lanai, as well as to all the clinical and administrative staff who have dedicated so much time and effort to this project on behalf of the State, Maui Health Systems, the Hospitals, and the communities of Maui and Lanai…..

“With a new date of July 1, 2017, we will all avoid the perpetual raising and dashing of expectations as interim closing dates are repeatedly set and cancelled. Providing certainty in an achievable transfer date of July 1, 2017 will enable everyone involved in this project to plan and strive together to reach a common goal on a firmly defined timeline.”

While Hahn wrote that, “Our commitment to the people of Maui, Lanai, and the State of Hawaii remains unwavering,” the push back of the management start date raises new questions and uncertainties for all concerned, as there is still an entire 2017 legislative session between now and July 1, 2017, and during that period many new and unexpected factors could be introduced into the mix.

The proposed new start date also comes only one day after all public sector contracts for all the state’s and all the four counties public workers are set expire on June 30, 2017.

The new timing is likely to mean that Kaiser’s role in the new scheme of things both on Maui and how similar situations might play out at the state’s other public hospitals (which have indicated a desire to transition to other management) are likely to be on the bargaining table as public sector labor negotiations go forward.

Maui Region’s chief executive officer, Wes Lo, released the following statement: “We are extremely disappointed with the continued delays of this transition. For years now we have known that the current business model could not sustain our hospitals while meeting the needs of our communities. We held so much hope that this transition would increase the quality of healthcare provided to our friends and family. Unfortunately, this impasse continues to chip away at our faith that this system is set up to ensure that we can provide high quality care for the long-term.

“Our Maui delegation and their colleagues worked diligently to provide our rural community with a solution to protect, preserve, and grow our care options. There cannot be enough gratitude for their leadership and understanding of Maui’s needs. Maui Region was proud to work alongside our legislators, in particular our Maui legislators to pass this legislation.

“However, once negotiations began, our Maui stakeholders were not part of the process. There has been little to no transparency. We are extremely frustrated to learn that negotiations have failed.

“Our patients, our staff, our community, and visitors have endured worry, threatened cuts and service closures for far too long, and even with the lack of urgency in settling this matter, they show up because at the end of the day, our services affect our families. They are the real heroes in this process, putting the needs of our patients above their own.

“I want to be expressly clear to our physicians, staff, patients and our families and friends that make up Maui County, our first priority is your care – we will do all we can to protect you throughout this drawn out process. We have to make some extremely tough decisions which may result in bed and specialty closures and an increased rate of transports to Honolulu facilities to deal with this shocking setback. As we continue to sort out this matter and balance the shortfalls against necessary services, we will continue to keep you informed.”

For more than two years both the HGEA and the UPW have vigorously opposed the transition to Kaiser management and have created legal and legislative obstacles to the transfer.

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About Susan Halas

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Susan Halas is a Senior Political Contributor at MAUIWatch. She has followed Hawaii politics since 1976 when she moved to the Valley Isle. She was formerly a staff writer for the Maui News as well as other local print and digital publications.

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