A sudden exodus of four surgeons from the Hawaiian islands has local providers concerned about stemming the loss of qualified physicians.
Just last week, three of the Big Islands five orthopedic surgeons said they would no longer practice there, and the two who remain dont work full time. The orthopedic community is shocked, said Linda Rasmussen, immediate past president of the Hawaii Medical Association and an orthopedic surgeon on Oahu. Its that domino effect.
Doug Hiller, named incoming president of the Hawaii Medical Association, is instead leaving his solo orthopedic practice for a job in Wyoming later this month. William Park, chief surgeon of North Hawaii Community Hospital, where Hiller treats patients, also is leaving the Big Island.
I work harder and harder every year and make the same amount of money every year, said Hiller, who grew up on Oahu and has practiced in Hawaii for 19 years.
Both depart the 40-bed North Hawaii Community Hospital in Kamuela amid administrative turmoil. Last summer, the hospital laid off 59 workers and fired its chief executive officer after just two months on the job (Aug. 4, p. 12). The hospital has since retained a new board and Hiller attributed his decision to leave to the states low reimbursements, high cost of living and high insurance payments.
Two other orthopedic surgeons also are leaving the Big Island. John Bellatti, on staff at 94-bed Kona Community Hospital in Kealakekua, which has also suffered recent layoffs, is shuttering his practice by year-end. Vivian Chang, who began practicing last year on the island, won a specialty fellowship in Paris in January and likely wont return. Remaining is one orthopedic surgeon in Kona. Thats Barry Blum who also works in administration at Kona Community Hospital and is a part-time surgeon in Hilowho serves in the Army Reserve and is deployed to Iraq for six months out of the year, Rasmussen said.
There are only a few orthopedic surgeons practicing in Hawaiimostly on Maui and Oahubut theres not a single hand surgeon on the island of Oahu, Rasmussen said, adding that she is doing more hip replacements every day as Hawaiis population ages. I did three yesterday and am doing nine tomorrow, she said.