Pahoa medical clinic moves forward

A new medical clinic for Pahoa moved closer to reality Thursday, when the Windward Planning Commission gave it a unanimous endorsement.

A new medical clinic for Pahoa moved closer to reality Thursday, when the Windward Planning Commission gave it a unanimous endorsement.

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The facility, to be located on 1.5 acres of land at the southeast corner of the intersection of Highway 130 and Highway 132, will be a 13,520-square-foot building housing doctors, dentists and other health care professionals.

Because the builders were seeking only a use permit, the application does not need to be heard by the County Council.

The applicant, Gilbert Aguinaldo, said the need for services closer to Pahoa was really driven home for him when he had to take his ailing father to Hilo every time he needed to see a specialist.

“I waited a long time to get to this point here,” Aguinaldo said. “This could help my community in a positive way. It’s something great fr our town.”

Physician David Nakamura said the medical center will also help keep young doctors in the area, something that’s especially important now that rural physician training programs are getting more attention and funding. It’s hard for doctors just starting out and burdened with several hundred thousand dollars in student loans, to be able to afford opening up their own practices, Nakamura said.

Currently, he said, the only major employer of physicians in Pahoa is Bay Clinic.

“I think it is generally agreed upon in this county that we’re facing a serious shortage of physicians,” Nakamura said. “Having office space is the first step toward solving our problem. Unless there is a practice opportunity, all that training will be for naught.”

Mark Hinshaw, chairman of the Pahoa Town Center Steering Committee and president of Mainstreet Pahoa, said the community favors the location of the medical facility and believes it is fully in compliance with community plans. At his request, Aguinaldo agreed to amend the use permit to codify his compliance with Pahoa Village design standards.

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The commission, voting 7-0 to approve the permit, praised Aguinaldo’s commitment.

“I commend you for taking this up to provide the services that are needed,” said Chairman Wallace Ishibashi.