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Kona hospital to cut 34 jobs, close skilled nursing unit

West Hawaii Today; Bret Yager; June 8, 2015

West Hawaii Today

By no later than Aug. 1, 34 positions at Kona Community Hospital will be eliminated, and the hospital will shut down its 18-bed skilled nursing unit.

Administrators at the 94-bed hospital in Kealakekua announced the cuts Monday morning as part of a plan to address a $6 million hole in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

“It is with deep regret that we must make these decisions,” said Jay Kreuzer, West Hawaii Regional CEO of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation. “Over the past several years, the entire hospital staff has pulled together to help address our financial challenges. Our hospital departments are running efficiently, and there is no excess or waste to be trimmed. Sadly, these efforts do not offset our fiscal 2016 deficit due to lack of state funding.”

The gap was created in part by increased labor costs due to collective bargaining arrangements and retiree health benefits, Kreuzer said.

The skilled nursing beds are not being de-licensed, and should funding be available, the unit could be reopened in the future, administrators said. The unit has averaged six patients a day while the operating cost has remained fixed, said administrators who noted that those services can be obtained at other facilities around West Hawaii.

The news follows the announcement last month of plans to plug a $7 million hole in the East Hawaii Region by cutting psychiatric and home care services at Hilo Medical Center and reducing the number of long-term beds at two other facilities.

At a recent public hearing before cuts are finalized, the public asked East Hawaii administrators to come up with other ways of meeting the budget shortfall than cutting health care jobs in an already underserved community. The state’s hospital safety net system — beleaguered by low Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates and operating costs that outstrip income — has repeatedly been propped up by emergency appropriations in the past. The statewide system faces a $50 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year beginning July 1.

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