From Renee Siracusa:
“To provide readily accessible health care to the residents of and visitors to Puna” is the mission statement of the Puna Community Medical Center (PCMC) that operates the urgent care clinic in the Pahoa Marketplace. This was put to the test when the board of directors was faced with the imminence of lava bisecting the town of Pahoa. How to ensure continued accessibility for those residents south of the flow? The “how” of the equation was especially troubling to PCMC’s accountant, but the board decided that the commitment to the community was a higher priority than fiduciary responsibility to a tight budget. Indeed, PCMC has operated on the edge with a tight budget for 5 three fourths of a year and even so has managed over 30,000 patient visits.
Clinical Programs Director Daniel DiDomizio and President René Siracusa started looking for an appropriate location to set up a south-of-the-flow annex. They investigated more than six possible sites whose owners offered either free or low rent. Finally they settled on the recently vacated space that had been occupied by Neighborhood Place of Puna. Owner Heather Hedenschau repainted, installed a new security door, and offered a reduced rental fee. The site is centrally located across from Pahoa High, Intermediate and Elementary Schools and has ample parking.
Then wonderful things started to happen. First, Dan Brinkman, CEO of Hilo Medical Center, arranged for some spare medical equipment to be loaned to PCMC for the annex; and the Lions Club volunteers helped to move it to the new site. Then councilmen Kern and Ilagan offered some financial assistance from their contingency funds. The Hilo DownTown Improvement Association., which was closing its Hilo office, donated office furniture and equipment. Cathy Emory, who was consolidating some of her vacation rentals, donated furniture for the waiting room. Clarysse Nunokawa of the Mayor’s office contacted Diane Chadwick of Hawai‘i Community Foundation, which resulted in a $20,000 grant from its Kukio Community Fund. Also, Eileen Lovell of the Gamma Psi-at-large (Hawaii Chapter) of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing arranged for a donation of $5,000. AlohaCare sent in a $5,000 donation. And more private donations and offers of volunteer assistance started pouring in.
A huge surprise was the extremely generous donation of a 2012 Lifeline Mobile Medical Van, originally valued at $358,000, by Kona Community Hospital so that PCMC could “continue to provide the high quality, readily accessible, health care services that are much needed in the immediate Puna community,” according to CEO Jay E. Kreuzer. Kalani Honua has eagerly agreed to allow the van to use space on their property once PCMC is ready to do patient outreach to the outlying coastal communities.
Paying for the costs of operating the annex and the van in addition to the original urgent care clinic are problematic at this point, but Mayor Kenoi, Chief Darryl Oliveira and Sen. Russell Ruderman have all offered to do what they could to arrange for disaster funding to help with operational support. State Representative Elect Joy Sanbuenaventura and Council 5 Elect Daniel Paleka have also offered help. Everyone, working together, is doing their utmost to make sure that South Puna residents will not lack for medical care. Pahoa has been granted a reprieve, but that may only be temporary. If and when it is threatened again, we will be ready.
The annex will open when lava crosses Highway 130 and will be open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The current urgent care clinic will continue staying open its normal hours of Mondaythrough Saturday, with Sunday and holiday hours of 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (closed for lunch). To donate or volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a healthy holiday season. Mahalo nui loa,