Survey: Residents support hospital proposal


A community survey about a proposed replacement for Kona Community Hospital didn’t reveal any significantly surprising results, CEO Jay Kreuzer said.

A Honolulu-based consultant conducted the survey earlier this year, seeking out respondents who were described as community stakeholders — Hawaii Island residents who included medical professionals, business professionals and government officials.

“Nothing was new,” Kreuzer said. “Everything was what we expected.”

If there was any slightly surprising result, it was that everyone interviewed was in agreement with the need for a new hospital, he added. Respondents recognized that the current facility is “outdated, in an awkward location and that access into and out of (the) current KCH facility are inadequate,” a summary of the survey results, provided to West Hawaii Today Friday, said.

Kreuzer said the community input survey is one step the hospital will need to have followed when it seeks state approval to build a new hospital.

Hospital officials who preceded Kreuzer have long talked about replacing the Kealakekua hospital. Kreuzer, in recent talks with state legislators and in public meetings, has highlighted some of the hospital’s problems, from the inability to expand at all because of limitations within the wastewater treatment plant there to the lack of parking for patients, workers and visitors.

Survey respondents expressed disbelief over whether this new push would be effective, noting they had heard plans for a new hospital in the past.

“It’s not going to be different from previous efforts until we get to the point where we have the funding to do it,” Kreuzer said.

One other change, this time, is that the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. in general and Kona Community Hospital in particular are looking at the possibility of a public-private partnership to fund building a replacement hospital. The next step in that process is getting legislation passed that would enable HHSC to enter such an agreement, Kreuzer said.

Right now, the hospital and HHSC are not in active negotiations with Banner Health System, which last year expressed interest in some HHSC hospitals on the Big Island and Maui.

“We do have statutes that prohibit us from just doing it,” Kreuzer said, of public-private partnerships.

He’s optimistic about the chances of getting such enabling legislation.

“Last year, Banner came up and we didn’t have a lot of time to make the case and do our homework,” Kreuzer said. Now “we’ve got a lot of people working on it.”

Community members also offered input on what they would like to see HHSC do with the current hospital. Suggestions ranged from a long-term care facility with emergency services to maintaining some outpatient services, such as dialysis and colonoscopies.

Where the new facility is built — most discussions place it somewhere in North Kona, and a developer near the Kaloko Industrial Area has offered HHSC land to do so — would affect decisions about the old hospital, Kreuzer said.

“There is a lot of consensus (that) we need to have a presence in some form or fashion farther south,” he said.

Completing the survey is one way to keep “some momentum and dialogue” going about funding and building a replacement hospital, he added. In addition to the survey, hospital officials requested capital improvement project funding to cover the costs of more planning.

The survey also noted respondents’ desire for a variety of clinical services, including cardiac and stroke intervention, as well as more pyschiatric care and behavioral health services and a focus on unserved and underserved populations. The latter were not defined in the survey summary. Respondents also questionded who or what would fund a new hospital and increased services.