Puna health clinic teams up with Ka‘u Hospital

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald The Puna Community Medical Center in Pahoa.
  • The Puna Community Medical Center in Pahoa (Hollyn Johnson/Stephens Media Hawaii)

Puna Community Medical Center in Pahoa became a division of Ka‘u Hospital earlier this month in an effort to improve medical services in the area.

Steve Sparks, president of the Puna Community Medical Center Foundation Board of Directors, said the agreement will allow the center to provide improved and expanded medical services to the Puna community.

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“It’s something that was really needed in Puna,” Sparks said, explaining that the partnership with Ka‘u Hospital — which now owns and operates PCMC — will allow for outpatient services and primary care previously unavailable at the center, as well as basic quality-of-life improvements.

“We won’t have to close for lunch anymore,” Sparks said.

The new partnership was initiated by PCMC in the hope of eventually being classified as a Rural Health Clinic, which allows for, among other things, improved reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid services.

However, PCMC could not meet federal requirements for such a designation without the resources of Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which operates Ka‘u Hospital and Hilo Medical Center.

Sparks said PCMC originally intended to partner with Hilo Medical Center, but the relative proximity of the two facilities would have interfered with the Puna center’s classification as a Rural Health Clinic. However, Sparks acknowledged that the distance between Puna and Hilo is still prohibitive for Puna residents seeking treatment in Hilo.

Sparks said Hilo Medical Center helped set up the partnership with Ka‘u Hospital and purchased properties on either side of PCMC to eventually be added to PCMC’s facility when the partnership was finalized. Sparks said the additional properties will increase the size of the facility from 800 square feet to more than 2,200 square feet, which will allow the facility to employ more staff, treat more people and increase its hours of operation.

“Our goal is to eventually be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week,” Sparks said.

The additional services provided by the hospital will ultimately be determined by the hospital board based on resources, Sparks said, although he added that the PCMC Foundation board specifically is requesting radiology and OB-GYN services.

Dan Brinkman, East Hawaii Regional CEO for Hawaii Health Systems Corp., said in a statement that he was pleased to work with PCMC.

“We are honored by the trust the community and the founders of PCMC have put in us and are excited about the opportunity to support and expand services in Pahoa,” Brinkman said.

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A public meeting for members of the Puna community to discuss changes at PCMC, with representatives from the East Region of Hawaii Health System Corp., is slated for 5 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Pahoa Community Center.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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