Story by Anne Fojtasek
If you haven’t visited Kohala Hospital recently, you’re in for a surprise.
About 70 people gathered in front of the hospital on April 13 to celebrate some impressive upgrades, including a whole new wing with a four-bay emergency room. In addition to introducing the new facilities, the occasion was also a birthday party. Our hospital is 100 years old this month! A large sign festooned with the words “Kohala Hospital: Bridging the Past to the Present, 1917-2017” hung over the platform where the program unfolded.
Aunty Ilima Moiha spoke of coming to Kohala Hospital to give birth to her daughter at age 19. Remembering the old hospital and happy memories associated with it, she off ered a blessing and gave thanks for the old and for the new. Hospital administrator Gino Amar commended his staff and remarked on their red and yellow shirts, designed with ali`i colors. The red is for passion and vitality, he said, and the yellow is for good cheer and intelligence. But today is “about much more than tee shirts for a 100-year birthday. We’re about community, about taking care of our residents here.” As he introduced Herbert Yim, a past administrator of the hospital, Gino remembered that Mr. Yim started right in on his new job by checking out the hospital restrooms. To which Mr. Yim replied that he had checked out the restrooms on this trip as well. “The ones I saw today are all beautiful!” he told the crowd. But what impressed him more was the number of people who came to support the hospital. He spoke of seeing Gino’s potential as a future administrator and “shaking him out of his comfort zone” by sending him on a trip to Washington D.C. to learn more about hospital management.
The spirit of community has been evident all along, even as the hospital has undergone many changes. The Kohala Sugar Company originally owned the hospital and hired the staff after its doors opened on April 1, 1917. Care cost $1.50 per day. The hospital was relocated to the current structure in 1962, Gino said. It later became the second critical access hospital in Hawai`i. The North Kohala community has been very passionate about maintaining this facility, knowing what a boon it has been to our district. The Kohala Hospital Charitable Foundation, established in 2001, has raised over $285,000 to date to help provide equipment, beds and now a new wing of the hospital.
After the speeches came the most interesting part of all: seeing the new emergency room. One young lady guiding a tour said she has worked in several hospitals; the one in Kohala is the smallest but also one of the most high-tech she has seen. Amazing! The new wing includes a large waiting room because patients in Kohala come in with their families and friends. It also includes a nursing station, new exam rooms, a conference room and a triage area. Outside a new drive leads to the ER, and a covered walkway provides wheelchair access.
Many a small community in Hawai`i has lost its hospital or never had one. But Kohala Hospital has not only stayed in operation but has grown and improved. This hospital and the Kohala community have supported each other, and today we celebrate the benefits of this partnership.
Herb Yim (left), Pat Kalua (center) and Gino Amar celebrate the unveiling of the new Kohala Hospital emergency wing. Yim (1996-2003) and Kalua (2008-2012) are past hospital administrators, while Amar (2012-present) currently holds the position.
Advanced medical equipment is seen in the new emergency treatment rooms at Kohala Hospital. The hospital opened its new emergency wing, concurrently celebrating 100 years of service to the community, on April 13, 2017.
Kohala Hospital Administrator Gino Amar (left) and Pastor Ilima Moiha embrace after the traditional blessing of the new hospital emergency room wing. Pastor Moiha, minister of the Gospel of Salvation church in Hawi, performed the blessing.