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Plans for Pahoa emergency room move forward

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HILO, Hawaii >> The Puna Community Medical Center’s plan to bring an emergency room to Pahoa has taken a major step forward.

The center last week obtained a lease for five acres of state land between Ainaloa and Pahoa village where it hopes to build a new facility.

Clinical programs director Dan Domizio says completion could be three years away. The center will need to raise between $3 million and $4 million for construction.

The medical center has received about $5,000 from Hawaii County District 5 contingency funds, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Tuesday. The state Legislature has promised to provide $750,000, Domizio said.

The medical center currently operates out of an 800-square-foot facility in Pahoa Marketplace.

Domizio said the emergency room would likely serve residents from Volcano through Keaau. The facility would be expanded in phases to include a birthing center, long-term care, dialysis and behavioral medicine, he said.

Surgical procedures won’t be performed there, though the facility could treat compound fractures and similar injuries.

“If it needs to be done in an operating room, then it will have to go to Hilo,” Domizio said.

“The ability to get somebody into triage in Pahoa would save their lives if they were going to die before they get to Hilo,” Domizio added.

He said the organization’s next step is to begin designing the facility.

Funding might be the biggest hurdle.

“What’s ambitious is not the building or the place, but the money,” Domizio said.

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