Maui's only acute care hospital is considering eliminating cardiology and a birthing unit to cope with a $28 million cut to the state hospital system's budget for the Maui region.
That's about 10 percent of the region's budget, meaning deep cuts for Maui Memorial Medical Center.
"Can you imagine not delivering babies here?" Wes Lo, the Maui region CEO of Hawaii Health Systems Corp., told the Maui News on Friday. "(But) we have to consider these (cuts)."
Lo said there were solutions to the budget shortfall: have the state fund the hospital at fully requested levels, have the state allow the hospital to form a partnership with a private health care provider or trim the budget.
Lo said he's hopeful the state Legislature will pass a bill allowing a public-private partnership. But he said the odds are 50-50 that a bill will pass in workable form.
He acknowledged opponents of the bill may view the budget cut as an attempt to sway legislators, but he believes that "any businessman should plan for this eventuality."
"I believe the discussion needs to happen now," he said. "You gotta have the conversation."
If the public-private partnership passes, the Maui region will "re-evaluate" the financial situation, Lo said.
The cost-cutting will begin immediately with the hospital looking at nonessential contracts such as valet service.
These initial cuts will reduce the budget by about $4 million if all goes according to plans, he said. That would be 50 to 75 positions out of the 1,500 employees at Maui Memorial.
Most savings will have to come from clinical service, which will require public input. Public hearings could begin in early summer.
Services that may be provided elsewhere, such as out-patient oncology and cardiology, and lower-profit margin services, such as obstetrics and gynecology, would be reviewed, Lo said.
Heart, surgical, intensive-care units and physician-call coverage are all under consideration for cuts, according to a news release from Maui region of the hospital network.
The cuts may affect services at the region's other two hospitals—Kula and Lanai Community hospitals—as well.
Lo recalled when heart attack patients were flown to Oahu for care because there was no cardiologist and surgeon on Maui. State Circuit Court Judge Richard Bissen recently barely made it to the operating room in time to have his heart problem treated and his life saved, he said. Lo was not sure the judge would have survived a trip to Oahu.
"It breaks my heart. We are human, too," he said. "I can't stand it if something bad happened to someone I know."