Hilo Medical Center undergoing $28 million in renovations

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Assistant Administrator Kris Wilson talks about the new CT scanner last month during a media tour of upgrades at Hilo Medical Center.

  • Isemoto Contracting employees work on the new Hawaii Island Family Health Center last month during a tour of upgrades at Hilo Medical Center.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    The new reflection room was almost completed Friday at Hilo Medical Center.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Employee parking at Hilo Medical Center has expanded greatly.

Patients and visitors at Hilo Medical Center find ever-changing hospital environments these days.

“Hilo Medical Center is undergoing a multimillion-dollar transformation to maintain and upgrade our 33-year-old facility,” President and CEO Dan Brinkman said in a statement to the Tribune-Herald.


“Every project completed in the last year, underway or planned this year demonstrates our commitment to utilizing taxpayer funds with the highest level of responsibility and supporting of local construction businesses that, in turn, are contributing to our local economy,” he said.

Some renovations were completed in 2017, some are almost done and others will be finished by the end of 2019. Last month, the hospital hosted a media tour of the renovations.

“These projects align with our strategic goal of caring for more patients, close to home and on-island,” Brinkman said. “We are grateful for our state legislators and governor for advocating and releasing these funds.”

Much of the equipment and infrastructure being renovated or replaced dates back to HMC’s 1985 opening. In the kitchen, for example, walk-in food coolers, ovens and counters are set up for food service to meet patient expectations of the ’80s.

Renovations will allow kitchen staff to instead handle most patient meals as room service, ordered via the phone from diet-specific menus. Already, about 25 percent of meals are ordered that way, but changes are needed to streamline the process.

The 275-bed hospital has approximately 1,000 employees, including 250 physicians, physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses from 33 specialties. More than 43,000 patients are served annually.

Kris Wilson, chief information officer and director of capital improvement projects, said Hilo Medical Center wants to make its facilities more unified in appearance so patients and visitors can more easily find their way.

Buildings are getting fresh paint that give them similar color tones. Each hospital floor is getting its own color code so patients and visitors will know when they get to the correct floor. Tile design, carpeting and colors help patients recognize a sense of place when in a particular department.

“One of our goals is to really tie things together,” Wilson said.

The cardiology clinic, which opened recently, has the capacity for three cardiologists, said hospital spokeswoman Elena Cabatu.

A new MRI machine is going to be lifted by a crane and inserted onto the second floor through a hole knocked in the wall, Wilson said. Hospital officials are awaiting a license for the scanning device. Once the license is approved, passers-by will see preparations get underway rapidly for the machine’s installation.

The ongoing renovations are being done to minimize disruption to patients. For example, a new air-processing unit to maintain temperature and humidity in the operating room had to be installed quickly, switching from the old unit to the new one without interrupting the OR’s ability to conduct emergency surgery.

The air-processing units for the entire hospital were placed on the roof.

“We actually had to crane them to the roof, then build a structure around them to protect them,” Wilson said. Humidity is especially important in the surgical environment because bacteria need three things to grow: moisture, food (such as a patient’s tissues) and warm temperatures. If the surgical suite can be kept cool and dry, bacterial infections will be less likely.

By spring, the Hawaii Island Family Health Center will move from Mohouli Street to Hilo Medical Center’s main lobby as the residency program’s training site for primary care.

“This is a nice addition that I think will accommodate our residency program for years to come,” Wilson said.

Cabatu said there were 1,000 applicants for the hospital’s most recent residency slots.

The family health center will be a primary care training center for physicians undergoing specialty training in family medicine. It will include pharmacy services, nurse practitioner services, psychology and telemedicine with specialists.

The hospital’s construction of the on-site primary care clinic is close to completion.

“Cost savings with energy conservation efforts and efforts to reduce and eliminate rent costs by bringing our clinics onto our campus allow for reinvestment in other projects,” Brinkman said.

For example, about $200,000 per year will be saved because of new, energy-efficient lights.

Departments, staff, visitors and patients have had to adjust on the fly to the sudden appearance of a temporary wall, a new medical device, a missing room or temporary quarters.

“Everyone’s been working together — the patients, too,” said Physical Therapist Marisa Slmoiraghi, director of the new Ornish Lifestyle Program for cardiac rehab.

“I want to sincerely thank our patients for their understanding and our employees and physicians,” Brinkman said separately, “for caring for our patients throughout the construction and transformation of our facility.”

Email Jeff Hansel at jhansel@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


Hilo Medical Center floors and what they include

Pumpkin Floor (Ground level) includes occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, the new Ornish Lifestyle Program for cardiac rehabilitation, sterile processing, information technology, electronic medical records support, environmental services, purchasing, food and nutrition services and central supply.

Red Floor 1 includes behavioral health, neurology, admitting, emergency services, imaging, laboratory services, the blood bank, administration, cardiology clinic and the Hawaii Island Family Health Center, a “patient-centered medical home” that will serve as a training center for primary care residency program physicians.

Blue Floor 2 includes the ICU, the progressive care unit, surgical and pediatrics beds, the surgical center, the post-anesthesia care unit, the simulation lab, education and the new reflection room, a nondenominational room designed to allow loved ones a quiet place to gather.

Green Floor 3 includes obstetrics, a medical unit served by hospitalist physicians, infection control and long-term care.


$8 million for completed projects and when completed

Parking lot — October 2017

Addition of seven new air-handling units — October 2017

Lights replaced with energy-saving bulbs — November 2017

Cardiology Clinic — December 2017

Installation of second CT scanner — December 2017

Obstetrics bathrooms, Phase 1 — 2017

$7.6 million for projects in process and proposed completion date

Reflection Room — March 2018

Operating room air-handling unit — April 2018

Hawaii Island Family Health Center — April 2018

Obstetrics bathrooms, Phase 2 — May 2018

Laundry/replace lint collector and dryers — May 2018

Ornish Lifestyle Program — March 2018

West wing repairs — June 2018

Acute hospital renovations (refresh campus areas) — ongoing 2018

$12.8 million for projects planned in 2018/2019

Energy conservation (digital to pneumatic conversion using air pressure)

Installation of new MRI machine (application for permit has been submitted)


Food and nutrition services renovation

Imaging Department equipment upgrades (ultrasound, radiology, nuclear medicine).