Expanding for emergencies: ER at NHCH increases in size to 13,000 square feet

  • Erin Matsunaga, left and Michelle Aikau demonstrate proper hand sanitizing techniques at North Hawaii Community Hospital’s new emergency room open house on Saturday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Educator Ruby Adams, right, encourages Grady Schlarb performing CPR on a practice dummy in a new state of the art trauma room at North Hawaii Community Hospital’s emergency room open house on Saturday. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Momilani Luciani greets visitors in the lobby of the new North Hawaii Community Hospital emergency room at Saturday’s open house.

  • The new entrance to North Hawaii Community Hospital emergency room is unveiled at Saturday's open house. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

North Hawaii Community Hospital will quadruple its emergency room size with the opening of the new facility on Wednesday.

Community members were afforded a sneak peek at the new facility Saturday at an open house. Guests wandered the spacious area where a variety of health related information stations occupied the new patient rooms.

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The 13,000-square-foot facility will replace the current six-room, 3,300-square-foot emergency room when it starts accepting patients this week. The old ER facility will be converted into administrative offices.

The $25 million project boasts 13 patient rooms, including two trauma rooms equipped with new state of the art equipment, and a secured behavioral health room, as well as a centralized nurses’ station, new ambulance and patient entrances, and a beautiful, spacious new waiting room. The new space is designed to provide a superior quality environment for patients, with private rooms providing more privacy to support a healing environment.

Wayne Higaki, director for development, said there has been talk of expanding the ER since 2005, with several iterations of designs. As the North Hawaii Community grew, so did the need for expanded care.

After Queen’s Medical Center took over the hospital in 2014, talks of expanding the ER were still on the table.

“But when current president Cindy Kamikawa came on board in 2016, she introduced herself and said ‘this ER is going to get built,’” said Higaki.

With funds coming from Queen’s, private donations, corporate foundations and the state, construction was completed in 13 months and provided 158 construction jobs.

The hospital’s humble beginnings trace to the Lucy Henriques Medical Center, which opened in 1974. It was the only health care center in Waimea, and operated as an urgent care center before that type of facility was introduced. In 1996, North Hawaii Community Hospital opened and brought 24 hour emergency care and inpatient services to the area. In 1998 the two entities merged, combining resources and their equal shares as beneficiaries of the Parker Ranch Trust which still is in effect today.

The new ER also incorporates a system wide interpreter service, which helps the staff effectively communicate with non-English speaking patients. The mobile system connects the staff with interpreters of over 150 languages and dialects which helps doctors find out patients’ symptoms, reassures patients that they are being understood and ensures the staff that the patients’ needs are being met.

The new ER also boasts all new equipment including 14 cardiac monitors and a mobile digital X-ray machine.

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Higaki said the hospital belongs to the community.

“We are privileged to be here. We are the stewards of the community, here to provide a service,” said Higaki. “It is a community hospital in the truest sense of the word.”

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