Kokua Line: EMS directs ambulance but patient can state preferred hospital
Question: I am a senior living in Mililani. Which hospital would EMS transport me to? My concern is that they will take me to Wahiawa General Hospital.
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Question: I am a senior living in Mililani. Which hospital would EMS transport me to? My concern is that they will take me to Wahiawa General Hospital. Can I ask to be taken to Pali Momi? Pali Momi is associated with Straub, and all my physicians are associated with Straub (Mililani and Pali Momi). Knowing that Wahiawa General Hospital is closing departments and the long-term care is deficient nationally, I would rather not be taken there for any type of emergency.
Answer: You can express your preference, but the decision is up to emergency responders, who weigh several factors, said said Shayne Enright, an EMS spokeswoman:
“The Honolulu Emergency Medical Services will transport the patient to the closest, most appropriate emergency room according to the State of Hawaii’s guidelines. The patient’s symptoms, along with the hospital’s capabilities and capacity, determine where the patient is transported. Honolulu EMS has 21 ambulances for nearly 1 million residents plus visitors and, thus, the guidelines allow for the patient to receive appropriate care without impeding on the paramedics’ and EMTs’ ability to be available for the next patient.”
In a follow-up email she said that “the patients do not dictate where they are transported; the paramedic makes the final decision, but can take into consideration the patient’s preference.”
Wahiawa General’s Emergency Department is fully operational; EMS regularly transports patients there, she said.
We shared your concerns with the hospital but did not receive a response by deadline. Based on news reports, the two concerns you mentioned don’t involve the Emergency Department directly.
Wahiawa General’s website says its ER treats more than 20,000 patients a year, filling a crucial need for Central Oahu and the North Shore. The website describes a state-of-the-art emergency department with 16 patient beds, two new trauma-treatment rooms and upgraded patient-monitoring equipment.
Regarding the concerns you mentioned, the hospital announced in early May that it was closing its Surgical Services Unit; the last scheduled procedure was May 15, and the unit officially closed May 31. The hospital said it was closing that unit to “focus on and add resources in support of our core services,” which include the Emergency Department, among other services.
On June 3 two U.S. senators from Pennsylvania released a list of nursing homes nationwide that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has identified as consistently underperforming. Wahiawa General, which has a 107-bed long-term care facility, was one of six Hawaii facilities on the list. You can find links to the list, the senators’ report and CMS’ response at 808ne.ws/ltcrep.
The hospital’s financial challenges have been documented over the years and mirror those of other rural hospitals, which also serve a high percentage of Medicaid and Medicare patients, whose expenses are reimbursed at lower rates than private insurance pays. The hospital has been trying to adapt to offer services that are needed but also financially sustainable.
Days after announcing it was closing the surgical unit, Wahiawa General said it would partner with the state Department of Health to provide up to 30 short-term mental health stabilization beds, which are urgently needed on Oahu.
On June 13, as I walked past the Nuuanu Avenue park by Kawananakoa School, I met a lady with a dog wearing an “808 Recycle” T-shirt carrying a plastic bag and picking up trash. I thanked her, to which she replied, “I try.” Such a wonderful aloha spirit. — A thankful and impressed senior
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email email@example.com.