By ERIN MILLER
Kona Community Hospital ended last fiscal year with $1.6 million in revenue, its first positive bottom line since 1997.
The hospital will also begin, next month, offering direct hospital-to-hospital patient transfers, via a Hawaii Life Flight helicopter, officials said Tuesday morning.
Officials credited an increase in patients, particularly those undergoing outpatient procedures, as well as continuing to keep costs in line, with the revenue for the year that ended June 30.
“Last year, we were really busy,” Chief Financial Officer Dean Herzog said. “Usually your slow season is in the summer. We didn’t have a slow season.”
The hospital has, or has access to, 16 more doctors this year, CEO Jay Kreuzer said. As revenues go up, the hospital can continue to upgrade equipment and devote more resources to recruiting more doctors, he added.
At the same time, the hospital will be able to transfer patients, particularly people suffering from cardiac arrest and strokes, to Maui Memorial Hospital without loading patients in an ambulance, driving them to Kona International Airport, loading them onto a fixed-wing airplane and flying them to Maui, where patients are put in an ambulance and driven to the hospital.
Using an EMS helicopter, which is rated to fly over the ocean, will reduce the travel time from up to four hours to about 20 minutes, Kreuzer said.
The first emergency helicopter, which will be stationed at Kona International Airport, is set to arrive next month, Kreuzer said. The hospital has a contract with Hawaii Life Flight for the helicopter, but the air ambulance company won’t bill the hospital. Insurance companies will receive the bills, Kreuzer said, so the service will come at no cost to his facility.
In December, a larger emergency helicopter is scheduled to arrive. That aircraft will be rated to fly all the way to Oahu, although Kreuzer said he was not certain how often that would happen.
Kreuzer also provided more details Tuesday on the hospital’s plans to build a replacement facility, likely in North Kona, somewhere relatively close to the airport. Stanford Carr, a developer working on the SCD-TSA Kaloko Makai project on Hina Lani Street, offered Hawaii Health Systems Corp. 40 acres, for free, at the corner of Hina Lani and Ane Keohokalole Highway. Kreuzer said the hospital system has not made any decision about where to locate a new hospital, nor has it accepted the land offer.
A new hospital is eight to 10 years away and would cost several hundred million dollars, Kreuzer said. Before a firm cost estimate can be determined, the hospital is awaiting results of community surveys and discussions with medical professionals, business owners and other community leaders, a project Accord 3.0 consultant Peter Adler already began.
Community members will be able to provide input on topics ranging from where they would like to see the hospital located, what kind of services the hospital should offer, what services it should not offer, what should happen with the existing hospital and other questions, via a survey that will soon be available on the Kona Community Hospital website, Adler said.
He said his work will take several months, after which he will make a presentation to the hospital’s board. Kreuzer said the hospital will need to complete a certificate of need process through the state Department of Health, before it can move ahead with building a new hospital. He said the new hospital may not have significantly more beds than the Kealakekua facility, but bed space isn’t the problem the hospital now has. The problems are more directly related to the aging infrastructure and the old building’s inability to accommodate more technology, more outpatient services, provide enough parking and even keep up with the electricity needs of a modern hospital, he said.
He has worked for hospitals that have taken on big building projects in the past, Kreuzer said.
“I’m here for the duration,” he said. “That’s my plan.”
Email Erin Miller at email@example.com.