Ige releases funds for North Hawaii Community Hospital emergency department

Gov. David Ige released on Thursday $500,000 for construction of North Hawaii Community Hospital’s expanded emergency department.

The $25 million undertaking will increase the emergency department from its current 3,300 square feet to more than 12,000 square feet and from six treatment rooms to 13. It’s expected to open in early 2020.

“North Hawaii Community Hospital is an important medical facility for all of the North Hawaii (Big Island) district which includes Hamakua, Waimea, Kohala and Kawaihae,” said Sen. Lorraine Inouye (D-North Hawaii) in a statement announcing the release of funds. “NHCH has been able to provide state of the art medical services for much of the area. The new funding will enable the hospital to enhance its emergency services and response to the community.”

The funds the governor released were included in last year’s capital improvement project funding request outlined in the budget bill. According to the text of the legislation, the funding for North Hawaii Community Hospital qualifies as a grant.

Of the 13 treatment rooms, two will be trauma rooms. The expanded department will also house a centralized nurses’ workstation, new ambulance and patient/family entry points and a new waiting room.

“The increased space and efficiencies in emergency care will allow staff to deliver care in a family and patient-centered environment, and can accommodate future growth,” the hospital said in a Facebook post Thursday.

The post also referenced ongoing construction at the site, including photos of steel columns and beams going up on the new foundation. A ground blessing was held in November.

Hospital officials did not provide additional comment Thursday. An application to the state Health Planning and Development Agency, which signed off on the project in fall 2017, said at that time that The Queen’s Health Systems was “on track to meet the $25 million fund drive goal.”

The hospital, a 35-bed facility that became a part of The Queen’s Health Systems in January 2014, serves more than 30,000 residents plus visitors across a wide stretch of the island, including Waimea, Hawi, Waikoloa and Pohakuloa Training Area. In the application, hospital president Cindy Kamikawa wrote that its emergency department was over capacity with just six treatment rooms.

“When NHCH does not have the capacity to serve its community and goes on divert,” Kamikawa said in the application, “patients must travel a significant distance to either Hilo or Kona to receive medical treatment.”

The application said the expanded department would offer greater access to emergency services to everyone in the hospital’s service area, particularly the elderly, low-income patients, women, those with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved groups.

In fiscal year 2016, the hospital recorded more than 14,000 visits to the emergency room. This expansion is expected to address future growth up to 2025, when the hospital estimates more than 17,000 emergency room visits.

By Cameron Miculka West Hawaii Today cmiculka@westhawaiitoday.com

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