Puna medical center secures long-term lease


The Puna Community Medical Center’s plan to bring emergency room facilities to Pahoa took a major step forward Friday with the granting of a 65-year land lease.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the lease request for a 5-acre state-owned parcel on the mauka side of Highway 130. The rent will be nominal at $480 a year.

The medical center intends use the land to provide much-needed medical services for Puna, starting with an ER facility.

Completion of that facility could be three years away, but that depends on securing between $3 million and $4 million needed for construction, said Dan Domizio, clinical programs director.

The medical center has received about $5,000 from Hawaii County District 5 contingency funds, and has been promised $750,000 from the state Legislature, he said. Foundation sources will be sought.

Funding might be the biggest hurdle yet.

“What’s ambitious is not the building or the place, but the money,” Domizio said.

BLNR was initially offering a 35-year lease, but Domizio said that was increased to 65 years to make it easier for the organization to secure funding.

“If you are somebody, whether getting a grant or a loan … (they) are much more inclined to think that you are safer if you are going to be there for 65 years instead of 35,” he said. “It’s a little bit of an incentive.”

Domizio said the lease acceptance is a “big step, and a long time coming.” He said the organization’s next step is to begin designing the facility.

Domizio said surgical procedures won’t be performed there, though the facility could treat compound fractures and similar injuries.

“If it needs to be done in an operating room, then it will have to go to Hilo,” he said.

“The ability to get somebody into triage in Pahoa would save their lives if they were going to die before they get to Hilo,” Domizio added.

The property is located between Ainaloa and Pahoa village. Domizio said it would likely serve residents from Volcano through Keaau.

The facility would be expanded in phases to also provide a birthing center, long-term care, dialysis and behavioral medicine, he said.

The medical center currently operates out of a 800-square-foot facility in the Pahoa Marketplace.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.