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Maui Members Testify in Support of Bills to Address Employment Separation Benefits for those Affected by the Reduction in Force in the HHSC Maui Region

Click here to view the video from the hearing


Maui members Shaunadean Gomes, Christine Wong, & Lorena Asuncion are on a mission with our Union, determined to secure the retirement benefits they, and their fellow employees, have rightfully earned through their years of service within the Maui Region of Hawaii Health System Corporation (HHSC). HB 1075, signed into law by Governor David Ige as Act 103, was passed by the Hawaii State Legislature in 2015 - transferring the operations and management of those facilities to Kaiser Permanente, a private employer.


Act 103 failed to address employment separation benefits through the transition, and the Union has been fighting for legislation that would define special circumstances for vesting of employees within the Employees Retirement System and allow affected employees to retire from the State without penalty. Member Christine Wong will have missed her years of service requirement by one day, when the Kaiser takeover goes into effect on July 1, 2016. She is not alone. Member Lorena Asuncion is apparently being penalized 42% (6% per year), because, while she does meet the years of service requirement, she does not meet the age requirement for retirement.


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Saving the Eddie, and saving lives means saving Wahiawa General Hospital!

click here to view the video from the hearing on HCR 118/HR73


Not many people connect the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Surf Contest with Wahiawa General Hospital (WGH). Bottom line, the surf contest would not be possible without the existence of WGH. At a hearing on HCR 118/HR 73, Chief Executive Officer Don Oden attested to that fact, testifying that Wahiawa is the only hospital in the North Shore service area with the Emergency Room facilities capable of responding to an event of that magnitude, which, by Quicksilver estimates, has been known to draw record crowds of more than 30,000. The resolutions (HCR 118/HR 73) call for $6 million in aid over 2 years for the small, standalone private non-profit hospital.


UPW members joined their co-workers at the state capitol in an effort to further rally support among lawmakers for the resolutions - some arriving by bus and some in their personal vehicles. Chief Steward Maria Coleman who works in Long Term Care at the hospital spoke about the urgency of the situation stating that the hospital has “between six to nine months to prepare for the worst”. She says the aid will ensure hospital doors will stay open for two more years. Only expecting around 400 signatures, the group at the hospital started a petition and got more than 7,000 signatures in less than a week.


The UPW has long understood the importance of this hospital to the central Oahu and North Shore communities with nearly 200 UPW members working at the hospital. UPW State Director Dayton Nakanelua submitted testimony in support of the measure, recognizing the devastating effects a closure would have on the affected communities. “This is a true example of the power of people, and the power of grassroots organizing,” he said.


Wahiawa picked up the slack, and augmented services when St. Francis West closed up shop on West Oahu. In fact, the State, recognizing a crisis in the Hawaii healthcare industry, awarded $3.5 million in capitol improvement grants to upgrade the Wahiawa Emergency Room, and accommodate the influx of Emergency Room visits after the closure. Now that Queens has acquired St. Francis West facilities and opened its doors at that location, Wahiawa is in danger of closing.


UPW Operating Room Steward Frank Pavao testified at the hearing. We had the opportunity to speak with him at length outside the hearing. “One thing you have to remember about Wahiawa,” he said, “We’re not just not just a hospital, we’re a family, there. When you come, you’re not a patient. You’re not a number. You're a family member. We treat everybody as if they’re family.” He says many of the employees have been working at the hospital for more than 20 years, stressing that they stay at the Hospital because they love it there - even with the promise of higher wages from hospitals in town.


With the wealth of experience at the hospital, Frank also talked about the many healthcare professionals, Wahiawa has trained over the years. “You can’t teach experience,” he says. Wahiawa was the flagship for the John a Burns School of Medicine Family Practice Residency Program, and subsidized the program for over 20 years. According to administrative personnel testifying at the hearing, it was difficult to let that program go after so many years - especially for lack of funding.


“The prospect of Wahiawa General Hospital closing is a move into dangerous and uncharted territory that took a turn for the worse last session with the privatization of the HHSC Maui Region through the passing of ACT 103, ” says State Director Dayton Nakanelua. “The last stand-alone healthcare facility on Oahu, we can’t afford to let healthcare giants dictate our access to healthcare services.” more


Contact Us

UPW Headquarters
Oahu Division & Private Sector Division

1426 North School Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96817
Phone: (808) 847-2631
Fax: (808) 848-1987

Hawaii Division

362 East Lanikaula Street
Hilo, Hawaii 96720
Phone: (808) 961-3424
Fax: (808) 961-5718

Kauai Division

4211 Rice Street
Lihue, Hawaii 96766
Phone: (808) 245-2412
Fax: (808) 245-6149

Maui Division

841 Kolu Street
Wailuku, Hawaii 96793
Phone: (808) 244-0815
Fax: (808) 242-9075

(toll free, Molokai/Lanai)

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