Kaiser Permanente Hawaii for the first time will be providing round-the-clock pediatric care at the state-owned Maui Memorial Medical Center.
More than a half-dozen Maui pediatricians recently announced they were going to resign staff privileges at the hospital, effective May 1, because of the difficulty in running an office practice and covering the hospital.
"It's hard working at the hospital and running an office practice," said Wesley Lo, Maui Memorial's chief executive officer. "Attending all these births and emergencies disrupts continuity of care, economics and lifestyle. It's a quandary for me because we are facing unprecedented deficits. I was faced with entering into a contract (with Kaiser) that increased my costs but covers the community. We're really grateful that Kaiser stepped up to the plate."
The state's largest health maintenance organization signed a contract to provide five Kaiser pediatric hospitalists — physicians who work full time in the hospital — 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the island's sole acute-care facility. As a result of the Kaiser contract, Maui pediatricians agreed to extend their coverage through June 14.
"This was just an opportune time and bold move on Maui Memorial's part to step forward," said David Ulin, pediatrician and physician-in-charge at Kaiser Permanente Maui.
Most children admitted to Maui Memorial starting June 15 will be cared for by a Kaiser physician, regardless of their medical insurance coverage, the HMO said.
Kaiser has for years provided adult primary care at the Maui facility. Currently, Kaiser has six hospitalists for inpatient primary care on Maui, Ulin said.
The hospital averages 15 to 20 pediatric patients a day, with the majority being newborns, he said.
Kaiser already has a large presence on Maui, providing medical care for more than one-third of the Valley Isle's population. The company is both an insurer and provider, operating the Moanalua Medical Center on Oahu and 20 clinics statewide, including five on Maui. It has nearly 100 doctors and providers on the island, many of whom already provide care at Maui Memorial, in addition to more than 200 full-time employees. It is also the state's second-largest health insurer.