By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Hilo Medical Center can begin a series of much-needed repairs and renovations to the East Hawaii hospital after Gov. Neil Abercrombie released on Thursday $3.7 million in taxpayer funds for the projects.
Plans call for various capital improvement projects within the grounds and hospital, which was built in 1984 at its present location on 20.5 acres of land along Waianuenue Avenue adjacent to the Wailuku River.
The largest of the planned projects is a more than $1 million renovation of HMC’s acute care hospital, including upgrades to bathrooms with leaky fixtures and cracked shower tiles, replacement of inoperable and corroded facility doors, soundmasking to reduce noise, and other repairs as necessary.
The hospital will spend nearly $750,000 to replace the medical center’s atrium walls and roof, which need to be repaired to address water leakage causing damage to the hospital interior. Additionally, it will spend $650,000 to repair leaking roofs on its west wing, hospital cottage, and acute care hospital.
“Our facility is more than 25 years old, and aspects of its infrastructure and equipment are in need of upgrades to be operational,” said Howard Ainsley, CEO of Hawaii Health Systems Corp.’s East Hawaii region.
“… On behalf of the Board of HHSC’s East Hawaii Region, I want to express my appreciation for the governor’s release of funds that will enable Hilo Medical Center to address critically needed repairs.”
Ainsley added that as a result of increased competition for CIP funding from the state, numerous infrastructure improvement projects have had to take a back seat, and have therefore become more urgent as time has progressed.
For instance, he said, now that the hospital can replace its air handling system’s 25-year-old chiller pipes, it can prevent the possibility of losing air conditioning for the hospital due to a pipe failure, which can be a distressing and potentially dangerous situation for the sick and elderly.
Additionally, the hospital will benefit from the replacement of a broken washing machine that can no longer generate the high temperatures needed to sanitize the copious amounts of laundry the hospital goes through on a daily basis.
“The fact that medical equipment used for diagnosis and treatment has advanced dramatically in the last quarter century cannot be overlooked from a (capital improvement project) planning standpoint,” he said. “Today’s technologies place ever greater demand on the hospital’s electrical infrastructure. This is just one factor in the need to continually invest in the infrastructure of our public hospitals.”
In announcing the release of the state funds, Abercrombie echoed Ainsley’s points.
“These CIP funds represent an investment in Hilo Medical Center as an essential part of our public hospital system,” Abercrombie stated in a release. “As elements of the Affordable Care Act come online, we must continue to invest in our health care infrastructure to ensure that facilities are ready to provide access to quality health care for all the people of Hawaii.”
The funding approvals include:
— $1,052,000 for construction and artwork to renovate the acute care hospital at Hilo Medical Center, including renovations to bathrooms with leaky fixtures and cracked shower tiles, replacement of inoperable and corroded facility doors, sound masking to reduce noise, and other repairs as necessary;
— $728,000 for replacement of the medical center’s atrium walls and roof, which need to be repaired to address the water leakage causing damage to the hospital interior;
— $650,000 for the planning, design and construction to repair leaking roofs of the West Wing, Hospital Cottage and acute hospital;
— $350,000 for design and construction to replace chiller pipes that are more than 25 years old to prevent loss of air conditioning for the hospital;
— $235,000 for parking lot improvements/renovations, such as re-designation of parking to accommodate patient and visitors’ needs, signage, fencing and lighting;
— $233,000 for materials abatement, relocation of utilities, and demolition of an old, two-story building on the campus that has partially collapsed, resulting in a potential fire hazard and an obstacle to the helipad adjacent to this structure;
— $200,000 for construction to bring existing storage tanks into compliance with new EPA regulatory standards; project includes construction of a concrete footing, metal roof overhang, and installation of new chain link fences and gates;
— $160,000 for equipment to replace an existing washer, which is more than 25 years old and is no longer operable;
— and, $134,000 for design and construction to replace existing chain link fence with a higher masonry fence that will increase security for the behavioral health unit and additional privacy for patients.
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.