Hawaii island hospitals awarded nearly $70M

May 8—Hawaii island hospitals are expected to receive a much-needed boost in state funding to address growing health care needs.

Hawaii island hospitals are expected to receive a much-needed boost in state funding to address growing health care needs.

The state Legislature has awarded Hilo Medical Center, Hawaii island's largest hospital, $50 million for its long-awaited expansion project to help address overcapacity. The Legislature also appropriated Kona Community Hospital with $18.5 million to make urgently needed infrastructure repairs.

Gov. Josh Green needs to sign off on the approved state budget, which includes the funding, and has publicly expressed his support of it for both hospitals on Hawaii island.

Dan Brinkman, CEO of Hilo Medical Center, welcomed the news with gratitude.

Brinkman has been advocating for the addition of a new wing to the hospital for the past five years, citing a growing population and oncoming "silver tsunami " of aging patients. Hilo Medical Center has not expanded its capacity since its construction in 1985.

"The funding for the expansion of Hilo Medical Center is a huge win for our communities in East Hawaii and for Hawaii Island, " said Brinkman in a news release. "We are excited about the improvements in care we can offer our family, friends, and neighbors. We need to get busy building !"

With approval, construction is expected to begin in early 2024 on a new wing offering 19 more intensive care unit beds and 36 additional patient beds over a parking garage. Hilo Medical Center currently has 166 patient beds and 11 intensive care units.

Brinkman said he expects the expansion to meet the needs of the community for the next 15 to 20 years.

At Kona Community Hospital the $18.5 million funding will help with badly needed infrastructure repairs, CEO Clayton McGhan said.

The hospital plans to use the bulk of the funds—$16.2 million—to repair and replace crucial infrastructure such as the HVAC system, central utility plant and other building needs.

McGhan had earlier this year pleaded for these "risk of closure " infrastructure repairs for the nearly 50-year-old facility.

The hospital needed to repair its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, he said, to keep its operating room running with climatized control or risk losing its "Level III trauma " designation.

The remaining $2.3 million will go to another critical need : expansion of the pharmacy to include a compounding facility that can mix drugs needed for cancer patients. This is needed for regulatory compliance and to continue providing cancer care to hundreds of patients on Hawaii island's west side.

"We are pleased that our state lawmakers recognize the essential role our hospital has in our community and are fully funding our request this legislative session, " said McGhan in a news release. "Our extraordinary staff at Kona Community Hospital have worked hard to extend the life of our equipment and facilities, while ensuring exceptional care. (The )

$18.5 million will allow us to make necessary repairs so that our employees can focus on what they do best : providing quality, compassionate care for our families, friends, and neighbors."

Separately, the state in April also released $1.5 million in general obligation bond funds to help Hilo Medical Center replace two chillers, and $2.5 million in general obligation bond funds to replace the oncology facility at Kona Community Hospital.

"Hilo Medical Center and Kona Community Hospital provide crucial health care services for the residents of Hawaii island, which as a former ER doc on the island, are super-close to my heart, " said Green in a statement. "These funds will help upgrade the facilities to continue serving their patients."

Hilo Medical Center and Kona Community Hospital are part of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., a public entity established by the state in 1996 to provide health care statewide.

While there will still be certain medical needs requiring transport, supporters of the funding said neighbor isles that are equipped to serve their own communities would reduce the stress of flying patients to Oahu, which comes with additional costs and risks.