Bill Advances Paving Way for Public-Private Partnership at Maui Hospital
By Wendy Osher
State and House conferees approved of a bill on Tuesday that paves the way for the establishment of a public-private partnership for hospitals on Maui.
House and Senate conferees amended the bill to require the Maui Regional System of the Hawaiʻi Health Systems Corporation to re-solicit proposals from private entities interested in partnering with them.
The legislation effectively sets the groundwork for one or more of its facilities to transition into a new private, non-profit corporation.
The Maui Region of the HHSC, which includes Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lānaʻi Community Hospital, serves more than 11,000 inpatients and sees over 45,000 people in the emergency room each year. There are currently 1,500 individuals employed at Maui Memorial Medical Center, which is the only full-service, acute-care medical facility in the county.
In addition, the amended version of House Bill 1075 allows the Governor to direct negotiations for the transfer of MRS facilities. House lawmakers released information last night explaining that the provision was added to “protect and further the state’s interest in controlling the levels of financial support for HHSC operations and maintaining current levels of access to healthcare services on Maui.”
As for employees, the updated version of the bill preserves all rights, benefits and privileges earned by HHSC employees and reinstates a provision that requires the new nonprofit management to offer employment to all employees of facilities transferred for at least six months.
The state’s financial support would also be capped at Fiscal Year 2014 levels for facilities that are transitioned; but the facilities would be eligible to apply for CIP funds for up to the first 10 years, House leaders announced.
According to information compiled by the state House, a deficit of around $800 million was projected at Maui hospitals over the next decade. For the upcoming fiscal year, a budget gap of $28 million prompted approval by the Maui Regional board for service and position cuts at the Maui Memorial Medical Center.
As the bill lay in limbo, hospital supporters on Maui rallied in a sign waving demonstration and members of the MRS board presented their contingency plans for cuts.
“This action was absolutely essential for the people of Maui,” said the bill’s introducer and House Speaker Joseph M. Souki. In a press release statement, Speaker Souki said, “The financial situation for Maui Memorial was not sustainable for the short or long run, and a private-public partnership is the best solution for Maui and the state of Hawaiʻi.
He continued saying, “What we did today will open the doors for a vital public-private partnership to keep Maui’s hospitals open and to most importantly provide the appropriate and quality care for the people of Maui County. I thank Governor Ige for his leadership in bringing everyone to the table to work together on a bill that will have a significant impact on the lives of Maui County residents.”
In November 2014, the House Committee on Health held an informational briefing at Maui Waena Intermediate School to hear from MRS officials and the community. At the meeting, board members discussed plans to streamline operations and address anticipated budget shortfalls.
Three Maui lawmakers were included on the panel of conferees including: Rep. Kyle Yamashita, Sen. Roz Baker, and Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran.
The bill now goes to a vote before the full House and Senate for consideration.