Gov. Ige releases $1 million in CIP funds for Kohala Hospital
By Landry Fuller Special to West Hawaii Today

KOHALA — After nearly three years requesting funds for much-needed renovations, Kohala Hospital will receive $1 million in the next few weeks from capital improvement project (CIP) funds recently released by Gov. David Ige.

The rural facility first opened in 1917.

“Since Governor Ige just approved for the funds to be released, Kohala Hospital is working on the forms to process the release of the funds,” Sen. Lorraine Inouye said in an email Thursday. “This process can take nearly a month to complete, depending on the accuracy of the paperwork and timeliness of the process.”

The appropriation is part of a lump sum funding request by Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) to improve its hospitals statewide, according to a news alert released by Sen. Inouye’s office Wednesday. It went on to say that the $1 million in general obligation bonds will be used for the design and construction of interior renovations and exterior remodeling of Kohala Hospital.

“There is an ongoing need to upgrade or repair Kohala Hospital due to its age,” Rep. Cindy Evans said Friday. “As a legislator, I have worked to secure funds with my Senate counterpart. This release of funds was recognition of the needs of our hospital. My understanding is the funds will be used to finish outstanding parking and exterior improvements, including a joint project with Kohala Hospital Charitable Foundation (KHCF) to build an outdoor wellness garden for the long-term care patients, hospital patients and visitors.”

Around this time last year, Gino Amar, administrator for the Kohala Hospital, toured the hospital with Sen. Inouye to look at the areas where the greatest renovations were needed. In response, she agreed to support the hospital and mentioned she would request a CIP from the state budget.

“We were happy to hear that the governor had released these funds. We’re very thankful for Senator Inouye’s continuing support of Kohala Hospital,” Jay Kreuzer said, HHSC’s regional chief executive officer, by email Friday. “We appreciate that these monies will greatly help efforts to improve and revitalize hospital facilities.”

Kohala Hospital is one of 13 facilities HHSC operates throughout the state. On the Big Island, Hilo Medical Center, Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, Ka’u Hospital, Hale Hoola Hamakua and Kona Community Hospital are also part of the state agency.

In its most recent project, Kohala Hospital began emergency department renovations in late 2016 that were completed in September 2017. The new ED doubled its bed capacity from two to four treatment rooms, and separated outpatient emergency care from the inpatient and long-term care areas.

Some of the monies for the emergency room project were funded through Kohala Hospitable Charitable Foundation (KHCF) “Somewhere near $300,000 was raised in charity golf tournaments we hosted,” KHCF member Elsbeth Meinardus said Thursday.

“We’re starting a garden for the hospital right now and are scrambling to make this work. We hope to get some funds from the CIP.”

The proposed garden would include a gazebo and benches for patients, allowing them to spend time outdoors with family and friends rather than inside the crowded hospital. But according to the Davis-Bacon Act, contractors on state land are required to use state workers no matter who is paying for it.

“This drives the price up. Our original budget was $100,000 but the price is now up to $250,000 since the hospital is on state lands,” she said. “It will be at least $300,000 by the time we’re done with the sprinklers, lighting, pathways with wheelchair access and underground engineering needed. We’re willing to donate $100,000 from funds we’ve raised.”