Plans for a new mobile medical van to service the Big Island of Hawaii are advancing, with the encumbrance of $350,000 in state funds and a partnership established between Kona Community Hospital and the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA).
"Kona Community Hospital is excited to move forward with this project,” said Earl Greenia, Regional Chief Executive Officer, Kona Community Hospital. “Rep Herkes’ passion for healthcare outreach is commendable! We are grateful to HMSA for providing the money to fund operations for the next two years."
Championed at the State Legislature by Rep. Robert Herkes (District 5 – Puna, Kau, South Kona, North Kona), the funding to purchase a commercial grade, mobile medical unit was approved by the 2009 Legislature. The legislation stipulated that Kona Community Hospital must operate and staff the van, find a public or private partner to fund operations for two years, that the program cover the areas of South Kona, Ka‘u and upper Puna, and work with the Department of Education to service public schools in those areas. Kona Community Hospital will manage the program and HMSA will fund operations for two years.
“The mobile medical van will greatly improve access to medical care for the people in rural areas of the Big Island,” said Rep. Herkes. “Time and mobility are critical components when you are dealing with an emergency medical situation or in a natural disaster. When needed, the mobile medical van will be able to reach people in remote areas, provide care, and indeed, save lives.”
The objectives of the mobile medical van program will be to:
· Improve child health outcomes
· Improve access to primary care services
· Create a Big Island disaster relief resource
In addition, the initiative will provide three primary services:
· Education and vaccinations to children at designated schools
· Primary health care services to geographically challenged regions of the island
· A mobile disaster relief unit
"This mobile unit can bring another dimension of care to the residents of the Big Island,” said Kathryn Harter, Chief Nurse Executive at Kona Community Hospital. “From elementary school children wellness to medical access at community events, this initiative can support many people in positive ways. We are very optimistic about the value we can offer through these expanded services.”
HMSA’s On-line Care will be a critical component of the mobile medical van. It will allow face-to-face interaction with nurses and physicians, and patients will be able to establish on-going care with a primary care physician at the local community clinic or elsewhere.
“We know that access to care is a tremendous challenge on the big island, so HMSA is very excited to partner in this effort to bring quality medical care to the communities that need care the most,” said Jennifer Diesman, Vice President of Government Relations for HMSA. “We’re especially grateful to Representative Herkes for his tireless efforts to make the medical van a reality and to the Kona Community Hospital for serving as the primary care coordinator.”
For the long-term, Kona Community Hospital is looking at other potential partnerships and opportunities that will expand coverage and keep the mobile van viable and sustainable beyond the two-year commitment.