Rep. Robert Herkes discusses the impact of HHSC's financial condition for Big Island community hospitals.
Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) met with both House and Senate caucuses last week, but today announced officially that they face "fiscal challenges" of a $62 million deficit for fiscal year 2009, on top of a projected shortfall of over $40 million in the fiscal year 2008 which ends today. State lawmakers view the situation as a potential crisis which will impact community hospitals statewide; the neighbor islands are most vulnerable.
Early this session, the legislature appropriated a $14 million emergency appropriation to HHSC which was to apply to this fiscal year's shortfall.
HHSC is technically a public benefit corporation. It operates 12 hospitals on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, employs 4,200 staff and over 800 affiliated physicians, and provides acute, long-term, and rural health care.
HHSC indicated that they will immediately halt recruitment and hiring and implement layoffs at certain facilities.
The legislature responded today with a plan to send members of the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees to the neighbor islands for information gathering. According to state law, HHSC may not reduce major services without getting approval from the legislature. There are no immediate plans to go into special session for this purpose.
The legislature will also convene a Joint Legislative Health System Recovery Task Force, made up of public and private stakeholders, to assist the HHSC with short-term and long-term plans to ensure that health services remain viable and available for those who rely on community hospital services.