July 27, 2013

Kohala Hospital Ready to Begin New ER Project

Story and photos by Megan Solís

The much-anticipated renovation of Kohala Hospital’s emergency room took a giant step forward June 20 with a ceremonial wall-breaking to mark the beginning of construction.

After a pule (blessing) by Pastor Ilima Moiha, Kohala Hospital administrator Gino Amar gave a brief presentation on the ER plan.

Construction, or rather demolition, began July 1. The emergency room will be relocated to the east side of the facility, away from the resident patients in long-term care, and a new emergency driveway, paid for by grants to the hospital and a contribution from the Kohala Hospital Charitable Foundation [KHCF], will lead directly to the ER with a new ambulance carport. All of the walls on the east end meeting area will be taken down, and a new triage area will be close to the entrance, the waiting room area will be widened and a new multi-use area will be added.

The move will improve safety and infection control and provide less disruption to patients in long-term care. Amar notes that although this renovation will be a wonderful improvement to the facility, the staff at the hospital has always provided quality care to patients.

“Just because we are moving the ER doesn’t mean we don’t already provide quality services in our ER,” he said. “The Kohala community deserves this renovation and relocation.”

The new ER will be expanded from two beds to four with wall gas units and exam lights at each bed. The nurses’ station will get an overhaul as well. The project, from framing and roof extension to the final installation of floors and cabinets is expected to be finished by April 1, 2014.

Gino Amar, Kohala Hospital administrator, takes a sledgehammer to a hospital wall to commemorate the beginning of the long-awaited emergency room renovation. Former administrator Pat Kalua looks on.

“The timeline depends on what we find behind the walls and in the trusses,” said Amar. But when it’s finished, “then we’re going to have a really big party.”

The cost of the ER renovation is estimated to be about $800,000. What makes this project so special is the community effort to raise the funds. Kohala Hospital Charitable Foundation, incorporated in 2002, was founded to help preserve Kohala Hospital and its services to North Kohala. Although the foundation serves to raise funds to benefit the hospital in general, the emergency room project took on a special focus in the last several years. Featuring two big annual fundraisers—the golf tournament and the Beer, Boots, Brats and BBQ gala— supporters of KHCF have raised close to $400,000 toward the renovation. [See more about their latest fundraiser on this page.]

“Our thanks go to the North Kohala community because it’s through them that the money flows through to the foundation,” said Amar.

Other individual donors and foundations have contributed to RECAP (Rural Emergency Care Project), a collaboration between KHCF and North Kohala Community Resource Center specifically for the emergency room project. Through RECAP and NKCRC, the Atherton Foundation recently gave a $25,000 grant for the new ER. Fundraising efforts will continue, however, and Amar noted the continuing contributions of the Kohala Hospital Auxiliary, which has been a great support in securing needed equipment for the hospital.

Though the hospital was recently awarded $2.2 million in Capital Improvement Project funds from the State of Hawai`i, only a portion of that will be used for the ER renovation. The CIP funds can be used only for maintenance and facility improvement, and Amar says there are other needs at the hospital where these funds will be used: repaving the parking lot and improving the landscaping to allow for more parking, an air conditioning system, upgrading the door security, improving the call bell system, upgrading the water heater system, and the list goes on. A new emergency driveway has already been paved, leading to what will be the new emergency room.

Amar noted that this is a project that has been discussed for a long time.

“I’m just happy that during my time I get to oversee something and bring to life something that was being discussed before,” he said. “What an honor.”

Community fundraising spearheaded by Kohala Hospital Charitable Foundation helped make the renovation a reality. KHCF board members helped break the first wall: from left, Peter Denman, Jack Sunderland, Susan Denman, Pat Kalua, Tommy Tinker, Dixie Adams, Joan Pruchniak, David Gomes, Elizabeth Grant, Hana Anderson, and advisors Elsbeth Meinardus and Christine Richardson.

Fun, Food and Fundraising at Hospital Event

On a beautiful summer day in North Kohala, a large crowd gathered at Kahua Ranch for the second annual “Beer, Boots, Brats and Barbeque,” benefitting the Kohala Hospital Emergency Room, which began construction July 1. Smiling people were excited to see old friends, the music was playing, and when “Mustang Sally” was heard, the Kohala Hospital Charitable Foundation and Lions Club members showed their line dancing steps with energy and laughter.

The silent auction was full with people trying to outbid each other; the food and drink were outstanding; and when the time came for the live auction, everyone was ready and eager to place their bids with Jon Adams, who coaxed them into opening their wallets just a little more.

Auctioneer Jon Adams gets the bids rolling as Dixie Adams displays a wooden bowl up for live auction at the Beer, Boots, Brats and Barbecue fundraiser for Kohala Hospital held at Kahua Ranch June 22.