Maui Hospital Bill Gains Legislative Approval, Awaits Governor’s Signature
By Wendy Osher
The state Legislature on Friday passed a Maui hospital bill that sets the framework for the Maui Memorial Medical Center to establish a public private partnership for Maui hospitals. The item now advances to the governor’s desk where it awaits his signature, veto, or passage without his signature.
House Bill 1075 authorizes the Maui Regional System of the Hawaiʻi Health Systems Corporation to explore partnerships in an effort to save the hospital from potential job and service cuts due to a $28 million budget shortfall.
Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui of Maui responded to the news saying he is urging Governor Ige to “expedite the process” so that Maui Memorial Medical Center can find the right partner.
“With the hospital facing a $28 million budget deficit, time is of the essence in preventing cuts in health care services and jobs,” said Tsutsui. “I commend the Legislature for its leadership and focus in moving this bill forward. They were able to overcome challenges and obstacles placed before them at this bottom of the hour, so close to the end of this session,” he said.
House Speaker Joseph M. Souki, who authored the bill, also released a statement saying, “This was a very important initiative for the people of Maui, and I am very pleased we were able to pass the bill. While it is clearly not a one-shoe-fits-all solution, it did give us valuable experience on how to deal with the tougher financial issues faced by our other public hospitals.”
The Maui Region board of the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation and administration also commended the Legislature for the passage of bill.
“We are so very grateful for the hard work of our legislators, our community and all the hands that have crafted this legislation, sought to lessen future impacts and stood with us over the last several years,” said Wesley Lo, the region’s Chief Executive Officer in a statement.
“While we still have a long road in moving forward and working with all parties involved as outlined in the legislation at the end of the day our hospitals and our county will be better because of this work,” he said.
Some highlights in the amended version of the bill, as outlined by state House leaders, include the following:
- The Maui Regional System must re-solicit proposals from any party locally and nationally interested in partnering with it to operate its hospitals.
- Allows the Governor the ability to direct negotiations for the transfer of MRS facilities. This provision was added to protect and further the state’s interest in controlling the levels of financial support for HHSC operations and maintain current levels of access to healthcare services on Maui.
- Preserve all rights, benefits and privileges earned by HHSC employees. The bill also requires the new nonprofit management to offer employment to all employees of facilities transferred for at least six months.
- The state’s financial support to the transitioned facilities would be capped at the amounts provided in fiscal year 2014. Transitioned facilities will also be eligible to apply for Capital Improvement Project funds for up to the first 10 years.
Recent projections provided to the Legislature projected an $800 million deficit for the Maui hospitals over the next decade. In March, the Maui Regional board announced plans to cut $28 million in services and positions at Maui Memorial Medical Center for the upcoming fiscal year, and last week, outlined plans on how the potential cuts would be carried out.
The Maui Region consists of the Lāna‘i Community Hospital, Kula Hospital and the Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku.