Hospice of Kona’s Nakamaru Hale reopens

  • Nakamaru Hale is nestled amid ulu, mango and coffee trees and bountiful flora in Holualoa. (Courtesy photo/West Hawaii Today)

Nakamaru Hale, Hospice of Kona’s residential home in Holualoa, has reopened, providing respite, transitional and longer-term care.

The home accepted its first patient Monday following a more than five-month closure, Hospice of Kona CEO Laura Varney said. By Friday, three of the home’s five beds were occupied.

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“I am beyond happy, and my staff is as well,” said Varney, who’s overseen the nonprofit organization since 2006, including the opening of Nakamaru Hale — one of just 300 to 500 hospice residential homes in the nation — in summer 2012. “Relieved is probably the biggest feeling — knowing that it’s there, it’s available.”

The home closed in late October with plans to reopen in January. At the time, Varney said dwindling patient numbers made it cost-prohibitive to operate the home.

Operating Nakamaru Hale costs approximately $270,000 annually with about half of that funding coming from sales proceeds from the organization’s Memory Lane Thrift Store, and the remainder via grants and donations. Patient care, including equipment and medication, while in the home is covered by insurance, such as Medicare.

During the closure, which Varney called a “pause,” the organization worked to raise money to fund the home, as well as recruit staffing.

Delays in getting staff resulted in the closure being extended through last week. But Hospice of Kona is staffed now, with a ninth nurse coming on May 1.

The nonprofit, however, is still working to fund the home through the end of the year.

“As a result of COVID, Memory Lane, which is our primary source of funding, is closed. So, we have lost the income through the thrift store,” Varney said.

The organization is hopeful the store can reopen soon. Varney knows the community is anxious to donate items, particularly after having had plenty of time to clean during Gov. David Ige’s stay-at-home order.

“Once we open the doors, we are going to be ready for business,” Varney said. “Right now, we’re getting ready to be able to accept donations in a safe manner.”

In the meantime, Hospice of Kona is hoping for a philanthropist to contribute to the home’s operation.

“There’s someone out there that has the means to give $100,000 — to take the pressure off the rest of the year. We know there is,” she said.

But any amount makes a difference. Varney noted that some people may have a little extra money after receiving federal stimulus checks.

“We‘re hoping that we start seeing some of that generosity coming our way,” she said. “But we’re going to do it — no matter what.”

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Hospice of Kona’s in-home care and community outreach and bereavement programs were not impacted by the home’s closure. Annually, the organization cares for about 250 to 300 patients, with about 60 to 70 of those receiving end-of-life care at Nakamaru Hale.

Monetary donations for Nakamaru Hale — or Hospice on Kona in general — can be made directly to the organization online by visiting www.hospiceofkona.org or by calling 324-7700.

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