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Maluhia program best served by renewing doctor’s contract

By Tom Nagahiro

LAST UPDATED: 10:50 a.m. HST, Dec 18, 2012

Recently, some caregivers and patients of Dr. K. Albert Yazawa were given notice that Hawaii Health Systems Corp. (HHSC) was not renewing his contract as medical director of Maluhia/Leahi long-term care facilities and physician at the Maluhia Geriatric Clinic. 

In 2008, HHSC made plans to close the Maluhia Adult Day Health Program and the Geriatric Clinic. A group of caregivers protested this action and was successful in getting HHSC to reverse its decision.
Now, a group called “Save Our  Doctor Ohana” has been formed to try and get HHSC to reverse its most recent decision and renew

Dr. Yazawa’s contract. The group has held informational events and two sign-wavings, visited with legislators and written to the governor.

We have had meetings with Derek Akiyoshi, administrator at Maluhia Long Term Care Facility, and with Vincent Lee, Oahu Region CEO of HHSC.

They informed us that the full-time position has been split into two part-time, 15 hours per week positions with no benefits.

HHSC has hired a medical director and has offered the 15-hour geriatric clinic physician position to Dr. Yazawa, who has publicly stated that it would be difficult to accept a position with limited hours and no benefits. 

Akiyoshi and Lee both said that the decision was made because of low patient census at the clinic, and a stand-alone medical director would be more effective.

Through personal experiences as caregivers, we know this is not true. This change, we learned, never had any patient/caregiver input, and maybe no board of directors input. It was solely made by HHSC administrators who are too far removed from the direct services that Dr. Yazawa provides.

It sounds like the administrators make the decisions and tell the board of directors later.

Remember, HHSC is a quasi-autonomous state agency, very similar to the University of Hawaii system and the newly formed Public Land Development Corp., both of which have been criticized by the public for making decisions without stakeholders’ input.

There are 300 patients and their caregivers who will be left with no doctor if Dr. Yazawa leaves.

They will not have him there at the clinic five days a week, eight-plus hours per day.

There will be no one the caregivers will be able to call at night or weekends. 

The Plaza at Makiki will no longer have a visiting doctor who went to visit patients on a weekly basis.

Dr. Yazawa was accessible through the physician exchange at all hours and a callback could be expected very quickly.

When there is no doctor to advise you, the only other alternative is to go to the emergency room.

HHSC administrators have told us that there will be no change in clinic services with a 15 hours-per-week doctor.

We as caregivers know better. 

Baby boomers who will be looking for a geriatrician will have a hard time finding one, especially if they are on Medicare and/or Medicaid.

The public can expect more emergency room visits and admissions into long-term care facilities by our elderly, if this decision is carried out.

HHSC should be working to try and keep our elderly at home as long as possible. 

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