Governor intervenes in private partnership plans for state medical centers

Maui Memorial Medical Center

In a rare move, the governor is intervening in plans that would allow a private company to partner with state-run medical centers.

In a show of unity, Gov. David Ige called in House and Senate leaders Tuesday to announce that he wants to work out the details of the plan with lawmakers.

He said he had concerns with the current language in House Bill 1075, but would not elaborate when pressed for details.

“We all agreed that this issue is too important to leave to just the usual confrontation,” Ige said. “We want to work together to get a bill that we can all agree on to move the state forward.”

The bill now goes to a House-Senate conference committee.

The development comes as Hawaii Pacific Health, a non-profit health care network, is in the midst of a deal to partner with Maui Memorial Medical Center, along with two smaller Maui clinics.

Maui Memorial is facing a $28 million budget crisis next year and is relying heavily on the partnership deal.

“I don’t know what Governor Ige’s concerns are about the hospital bill,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa. “For those of us who live in Maui County, there really isn’t anything more important than making sure we have quality health care for our friends and families. The challenges facing Maui Memorial can affect hospital staff, doctors, medical programs, equipment and procedures if the shortfall is not addressed. Maui Memorial is our only major hospital, and this bill is the best chance we have to keep it up and running.”

Hawaii Pacific Health says it remains committed to creating a sustainable health care system for Maui and Lanai.

“We have received very positive feedback from stakeholders on discussions held so far and support the bill in its current state. We look forward to working with the Governor, legislators and other stakeholders involved to move HB1075 forward in order to ensure Maui County residents continue to have access to high quality, locally accessible health care,” the network said in a statement.

The union representing the 900 nurses and other staff at Maui Memorial says it still concerned that members could lose their jobs in any public-private partnership.

Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director Randy Perreira released the following statement:

Hawaii Government Employees Association continues to have concerns about H.B. 1075 which allows privatization of the state’s safety net hospital system and currently targets the Maui Region. Our concerns remain the same as when this legislation was first introduced this session. HGEA believes it is bad public policy to privatize the state’s safety net hospital system. We continue to call for financial and management audits to improve the system from within. We are deeply concerned about what will happen to the approximately 900 HGEA nurses and other staff who work in the Maui region along with several hundred other public workers if the system is turned over to a private operator. The private operator has not listed any specific details of which services will be increased under its management, which is one of the main arguments for going private.

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