By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
It’s taking a little longer than expected, but a large new dialysis center in Hilo will be up and running within months.
In June 2011, the Tribune-Herald reported that the new Liberty Dialysis clinic at 1384 Kinoole St. would be in use “by the end of the year,” offering 36 units for patients in a more than 12,000-square-foot building.
But since then, demand for the new space has become so acute that the number of dialysis stations was increased from 36 to 48, forcing a redesign of the interior to accommodate the additional patients. The clinic will open with 25 stations at first, and then expand to 48.
Those in the area have noticed the construction fencing that still surrounds the property and the yet-unpaved parking lot. But since June, they’ve also seen construction workers at the site as work resumed.
“We expect to have it finished sometime in December and hopefully open in the latter part of January to the public,” said Brown Dossett, superintendent of construction at Arita/Poulson General Contracting, on Monday.
Arita/Poulson is charged with finishing the interior of the clinic. Inside the building, workers were busy installing the electrical connections and painting the walls, and preparing to install the ceiling.
“It’s one of the largest (dialysis facilities) in the state, and one of the most modern,” Dossett said. “And we have a lot of patients that are anxious. They drop by here and check the progress.”
As well they should — the clinic was supposed to be closing in on its first anniversary of operations by now. Bruce Hansen, the owner of the property and general contractor for the building, was helping Monday by chucking rocks from a pile of debris onto a flatbed truck.
“Originally it was going to be a 36-unit building. Now it’s going to be 48,” Hansen said. Liberty Dialysis has signed a long-term lease with Hansen to operate a clinic on the property.
“It’s going to be good for the community,” Hansen said. Paving of the parking lot should get under way soon.
Liberty Dialysis has scheduled its grand opening and blessing for Jan. 9, but when it opens the number of dialysis stations will be capped at 25 — the same number of stations at the company’s current clinic near Hilo Medical Center — until it receives approval by the state to increase the number of stations.
“We’re very regulated by the federal government as well as the state,” said Jane Gibbons, executive vice president of Liberty Dialysis-Hawaii. The application to increase the number of stations is pending approval by the state.
Gibbons attributed the delay in opening the clinic to a lag time in getting the necessary building permits that were required after Liberty changed its plans. One of the major changes includes the building of a home dialysis treatment cottage in the rear of the building; this was originally intended to be built inside the main clinic.
“It’s always nice to get to the end of the project,” Gibbons said.
A 2010 report by the state Department of Health found that 7.3 percent of adults in Hawaii County have adult diabetes, which was close to the statewide average. A further breakdown of the data show that diabetes is most prevalent in Hilo, with 8.4 percent of the population suffering from the disease.
The districts of Puna/Ka‘u and North Hawaii averaged 7.7 percent, while Kona had the lowest rate at 5.1 percent.
In 2007, it was estimated that 102,000 adults in Hawaii had diabetes and more than 900 people die annually of related complications, making it the No. 7 cause of death in the state.
When broken down by race statewide, Hawaiians had the highest prevalence of diabetes, at 12.5 percent, followed closely by Filipinos at 9.9 percent. Diabetes was less common among those of Japanese descent (6.3 percent) and Caucasians (4.7 percent).
Email Peter Sur at email@example.com.