NHCH, Queen’s exploring affiliation


North Hawaii Community Hospital and Queen’s Health Systems — corporate parent of Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu — are exploring an affiliation that officials with both entities say will improve health care on Hawaii Island.

Queen’s Health Systems announced late Tuesday the formal agreement that allows Queen’s to explore the possibility of a formal affiliation with Waimea-based North Hawaii Community Hospital. The agreement also allows Queen’s to conduct in-depth due diligence into the physical and regulatory requirements needed before moving forward, said Cedric Yamanaka, Queen’s Health Systems and Medical Center spokesman.

Just what a “formal affiliation” means, however, remains unclear as officials for Queens and North Hawaii Community Hospital have signed a confidentiality agreement. The specific nature of any affiliation between Queen’s and NHCH will be determined and announced after the due diligence work is completed, he said. That process is expected to take three to four months.

“We’re always looking at ways that we can improve the health care needs of the people of Hawaii and this may provide it,” said Yamanaka, who declined to discuss what potential relationship could occur between the hospital and Queen’s citing the confidentiality agreement.

The formal affiliation, if realized, would build upon a clinical affiliation started in 2005 to help streamline the transport of cardiac patients needing care beyond what NHCH can provide, said Yamanaka and Wayne Higaki, North Hawaii Community Hospital vice president of public affairs and chief development officer.

“It will certainly improve” health care access and quality for North Hawaii, Higaki said.

No matter the affiliation — if it indeed occurs — Higaki said the Big Island private, nonprofit hospital would remain committed to the North Hawaii communities it serves.

“Whatever the relation ends up being — if that’s what happens — our board is committed to maintaining who we are for our community,” he said. “It will not change what we mean to the community.”

While officials with the entities remained mum on what a “formal affiliation” means, Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, said it could include a sharing of management resources, main streaming electronic health care records and share position time, which could enhance the ability to bring specialists into the area.

“I would strongly support closer ties to Queen’s,” he said. “That would be great for the Big Island.”

North Hawaii Community Hospital wouldn’t be the first hospital in the state to enter a formal agreement with Queen’s Health Systems.

Queen’s has had a formal affiliation with Molokai General Hospital for more than two decades, Yamanaka said.

The hospital has been a subsidiary of Queen’s since 1987 when Queen’s assumed the hospital’s debt load.