CIP funds slated for Hilo medical facilities

  • Courtesy of HILO MEDICAL CENTER Dr. Carl Juneau, Dr. T.J. Sawyer, Dr. James Smith and Dr. Jamison Wyatt have performed more than 400 cardiac catheterizations in Hilo Medical Center’s existing catheterization lab.

A capital improvement project budget passed Thursday by the state Legislature includes funding for Hilo Medical Center’s Cardiac Center and the Hawaii Pacific Oncology Center.

According to a Senate news release, $3.5 million will go to the construction and equipment for a second catheterization laboratory for the hospital’s cardiac unit, and $6.5 million was allocated for plans, design, equipment and construction for a planned expansion and improvement of the clinic at the oncology center.

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“The $3.5 million for our second catheterization lab ensures that our cardiac program will be allowed to expand to handle the volume of cases so it (can) be self-sustaining,” said HMC spokeswoman Elena Cabatu in an email.

HMC has long been working to treat cardiac patients closer to home, and in early 2019 hired its first interventional cardiologist, Carl Juneau.

Prior to Juneau’s arrival, HMC could administer clot-busting medications and perform diagnostic catheterizations to determine if a patient needed to be transported off-island, usually to Oahu.

The hospital can now perform interventional catheterizations to stop a heart attack in progress and insert stents to maintain blood flow.

Four cardiologists and a nurse practitioner are now on the hospital’s cardiology team.

In 2019, more than 400 catheterizations were performed at HMC, Cabatu said, and the hospital expects to exceed 500 this year. As of May 16, 239 procedures had been performed.

HMC sought additional funding for the cardiac program during the 2019 legislative session, but the funding bill stalled in the final stages of the legislative process.

Additionally, Cabatu said, “The $6.5 million to expand our cancer center building provides essential funding so we may have the capacity to grow as cancer care transitions into more of a chronic disease — requiring us to have more space to care for more patients for a longer period of time.”

The expansion would occur on a graded and unpaved half-acre lot next to the existing Hawaii Pacific Oncology Center, located across from the hospital on Waianuenue Avenue, according to a draft environmental assessment for the project published in February.

As reported previously, the first floor of the 17,295-square-foot building would be used by the oncology center, which is at maximum capacity, and will include a pharmacy, “medication oncology infusion room” and accessory rooms and facilities.

“In addition, the expanded building will house our telehealth center,” Cabatu said. “Funding for this project is good timing as the COVID-19 situation has sped up our timeline to provide telehealth services for our patients.”

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The CIP bill, House Bill 2725, covers fiscal years 2020 and 2021, and was sent to Gov. David Ige for consideration.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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