WAIMEA — Work is well underway on the expansion of three North Hawaii Community Hospital (NHCH) facilities in Waimea that will largely increase their health care scope for patients both on and off campus: a Primary Care Clinic, a Specialty Clinic and an expanded emergency room.
NHCH’s chief medical officer, Dr. Gary Goldberg, and Janet Crosier shared updates on the projects at Waimea Community Association’s town meeting earlier this month.
In addition to her role as the hospital’s director of ambulatory services, Crosier is project manager for the Primary Care Clinic and Specialty Clinic. Representatives from Queen’s Medical Center are overseeing the hospital’s ER expansion.
The Primary Care Clinic is a nearly $2 million project scheduled for completion this January. The family practice facility, which specializes in diagnosing and managing a wide range of health issues, will expand from seven rooms in NHCH’s Lucy Henriques Medical Center Building to 16 exam rooms in a space in Hale Ola Pono medical complex on Kawaihae Road where Longs Drugs was located originally.
“At this point, walls are up in the facility and we had the fire marshal come this week, so it’s moving right along,” Crosier said. “Construction will be done by the end of this year and our expected opening date is the beginning of January.”
Primary Care is currently staffed with two MDs — one of which is a gerontologist — as well as an advanced practice registered nurse, a behavioral health professional and support staff members including RNs, medical assistants and patient service representatives. NHCH has also hired a new primary care physician, Dr. Jenny Sullivan, who will join the clinic Nov. 1. She previously worked at Ali’i Health Center in Kona.
In addition, the hospital will bring in specialists from Queens’ Medical Center.
“We’ve already made arrangements with two pulmonologists, focusing on the respiratory system, to begin seeing patients in February,” Crosier said.
The Specialty Clinic is scheduled to open in the former Blockbuster space on the east end of Parker Ranch Center in March 2019. The $2.5 million facility will house six exam rooms, a casting room and simple X-ray equipment.
The hospital’s orthopedic program and surgeons currently housed in NHCH’s Lucy Henriques Building will move to the new location. An added service at the new facility will be a wound clinic for patients suffering from chronic wounds resulting from diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, arterial disease or trauma. Staff from Aloha Wound Care will aid patients for those ailments.
For the convenience of the orthopaedists, who order X-rays regularly, the hospital’s radiology department will remain on the NHCH campus.
“We’re a level 3 trauma center,” Crosier said. “We already bring in Island Orthopaedics in addition to our own orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Darrin Kuczynski, and we’re bringing in Aloha Wound Care. These orthopedic surgeons that come over from Oahu manage a lot of trauma and the out-of-the-emergency department. They’re used to putting things back together, which is different than just replacing what’s there.”
The third NCHC project underway is a $25 million ER expansion that will increase the space from 3,500 square feet to more than 12,000. Additional parking for the facility was added at the hospital earlier this month as the first phase. The next step will be constructing the building, followed by moving the current ER into the new space.
“When we’re done, we’ll have a 13-bed department with two triage rooms,” Dr. Goldberg said. “It will have privacy, room for your family and a much more professional atmosphere.”
The ER’s estimated completion date is around the first quarter of 2020, although permits have yet to be secured.
“We’re trying to expand service to the community and one of my passions over the years has been a system of cares,” Dr. Goldberg said. “I’ve been working very hard since 2006 to expand the emergency department here. When I started, we had about 7,000 (patient visits) annually and now we’re up to around 14,000, so we’ve definitely grown too much for the footprint.”
With previous administrations at NHCH, several other ER projects never got off the ground.
“People lost faith. It’s really exciting for us with what’s happening now,” Crosier said. “The new emergency department is going to be in the middle of the parking lot, so we had to create more parking spaces.”
To fund the project, more than $10 million has been raised to date from the community, physicians and employees. Queens’ Health System will fund the remainder.
“Anyone can donate anytime, but we’re in the middle of our second year of employee fundraising,” Crosier said. “Staff are having lemonade sales, rummage sales and cinnamon roll sales at the hospital. We’re really into it.”
Quality Builders is the contractor for the Primary Care Clinic and Specialty Clinic expansions. Goodfellow Bros. Inc. was the parking lot contractor, and Allied Builders System has been hired for the ER.
“What’s important for the community to know is that our goal is for people not to have to go off island to get first-class care,” Crosier said. “People who usually go to Oahu for their care can now get the same medical staff here. The community deserves that level of providers right here.”
North Hawaii Community Hospital became a Queens’ Health System affiliate in 2014.