The long-awaited and much-needed renovations and expansion of the Kohala Hospital emergency room began Thursday with a “wall-breaking” ceremony in Kapaau.
“A lot of the time (hospitals) in small communities like us get looked over,” Kohala Hospital Administrator Gino Amar said. “Now the people of this community are going to have a place they can come and get the good health care services they deserve.”
Community members, hospital staff and board officials drove sledgehammers into the soon-to-be knocked down walls to commemorate the occasion.
Demolition is scheduled to begin July 1, with construction scheduled to wrap up in April.
“The community is excited and grateful that now we can step up and do this,” Amar said. “It took a lot of patience, planning and fundraising to get to this point but we did it.”
Kohala’s current ER is made up of only two beds and Amar said it’s a common occurrence that there are more people who need emergency care than beds available.
An expanded ER with four beds and an easier entrance for ambulances will make the hospital’s job of administering care to the public much easier.
“It will really bring up the quality and capacity of the hospital,” said Christine Richardson, executive director of the North Kohala Community Resource Center and a Kohala resident.
The renovation also will improve conditions for the hospitalized patients. Currently, the ER sits just outside their hospital rooms. The relocation moves the ER to the other side of the building.
“The ER was substandard and right in the middle of the long-term care,” Richardson said. “It just did not serve the community the way an ER should. We are 20 miles away from the nearest hospital and that is a bumpy, scary ride in the middle of the night.”
Other highlights of the renovation include: a multiuse meeting room, wall gas units, overhead exam lights at each bed and a waiting room.
The approximately $2 million renovation has received funding from a variety of sources, but a large part of the funds were raised over three years by the Kohala Hospital Charitable Foundation.
“The fundraising has really been a grass-roots, local movement by people who are passionate about their community,” Richardson said.
Amar said the hospital will remain open during the renovations and will continue to serve the public 24 hours a day with a fully operational ER.
“We are not going to be closing the ER,” Amar said. “The current ER is located in a separate part of the hospital, so we will still be able to serve the community during these renovations.”
The Kohala Hospital Charitable Foundation continues to raise funds for the ER project.
On Saturday, the foundation will host the second annual “Beer, Boots, Brats and Barbecue Festival” at Kahua Ranch. All proceeds go directly to the emergency room project at Kohala Hospital.
Tickets are available at kohalahospitalcharity.com.