By Wendy Osher
The Maui Memorial Medical Center dedicated a new helipad today that will facilitate the faster transport of patients facing critical needs.
The new landing area, located at the west end of the hospital grounds in Kahului, is a key element of the newly launched MMMC Cardiac department.
“I guarantee you that in at least the next two or three years, you will have a friend, or family member, or someone that you know whose life has been saved by this building right here, and the helicopter that’s going to be landing there,” said Maui Managing Director Keith Regan.
Interventional cardiologists say patients on Maui just a year ago, were going off island for relatively straight-forward cardiac procedures.
Now, with a newly opened acute care cardiac program , which launched on August 15, and a helipad to support operations, doctors say Maui residents can look forward to improved access to care here at home.
“We’ve treated over 10 patients in the last month with acute coronary syndromes; and I think with this helipad, in place, we can look forward to that number growing. In five years we can imagine a network that extends throughout eastern Hawai’i, which is an under-served area,” said Dr. Joseph Chambers, a member of the new MMMC Cardiac Services Department.
Maui is now the only neighbor island that can treat emergency heart attacks, according to MMMC CEO Wes Lo. “We used to average about 30 patients we flew off to Honolulu per month for cardiac related conditions–this last month there were only seven or eight, so we’ve really made an impact on the whole delivery system in one month,” he said.
Lo said the cardiac facility has already treated patients from Hana on the remote East end of the island, and will be serving those from Lana’i and Molokai, as well.
The helicopter, which begins trial landings at the facility on Monday, is expected to save 10-15 minutes by landing on campus, instead of at the War Memorial Complex in Wailuku.
“We have seen that the helicopter has cut important minutes off of the time to life-saving treatment,” said Dr. Chambers.
MMMC interventional cardiologist, Dr. Colin Lee called it an exciting time for medicine on Maui saying, “It’s pretty unusual at our stage in our careers for people to be not looking for a way to slow down, but a way to really ramp up their practice.”
Lt. Governor Brian Schatz thanked the Maui delegation for securing funds for the project and MMMC CEO Wes Lo for his vision going forward.
“This doesn’t happen on every island–not just the establishment of a helipad, but the integration of care, the thinking about how to improve the quality of care, improve access to care especially in rural areas, and at the same time save money for this hospital and for the entire system,” said Lt. Governor Brian Schatz.
Schatz said that as soon as plans are finalized over the next several months, “we’re going to try and see if we can replicate this across the state and transform health care so that we can deliver better services, more efficiently to everybody in the state of Hawai’i,” said Schatz.
“Three-million dollars is not cheap, but it’s important–it’s an investment in our community, it’s an investment that’s going to save lives,” said Managing Director Keith Regan.
In addition to the helipad, the MMMC also blessed two new generators. “The helipad is great, and the cath-lab is as spectacular as they come, but those two new generators that we just blessed, are really an amazing thing.”
The generators were added after the 2006 earthquake that knocked out electricity to a majority of the island for an extended period. At the time, MMMC had three small generators powering the hospital.
Each of the new generators have the ability to power the entire hospital on their own, creating a “double redundancy.” “That is so comforting to us,” said Lo.
“This thing is starting to come together for us. We have a lot of work ahead of us. I think we’re finally starting to see the results of all of this, probably 7-10 years of hard work,” said Lo.