Hawaii state legislators on Friday appropriated $1.8 million for one year of a program designed to bring more doctors to the Big Island.
The amount is well shy of the $5.6 million, two-year appropriation that Big Island legislators, hospital officials, business groups and community leaders statewide sought for the program, but “it’s a great start,” said Kaloa Robinson, marketing director for the Hilo Medical Center.
All 11 Hawaii County legislators endorsed “full funding” for the program, known as the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation Primary Care Training Program at Hilo Medical Center, saying it’s “critically needed to bring high quality, lower cost health care to the residents of Hawaii’s Neighbor Islands,” said a letter from the delegation to the state House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees.
Friday was the last day that the bill could be funded in this legislative session, Robinson said.
Robinson said that following this initial funding, backers of the proposal anticipate asking the Legislature for at least the same amount, if not more, in next year’s session to continue the program. The cost would be recovered by reducing unnecessary emergency room visits and hospitalizations throughout the state, and by raising the rates of child immunizations, the delegation said.
The Big Island legislators noted that Hawaii is currently 200 primary care physicians short of its need, with more than 30 percent of currently practicing doctors being over 60 years old. Hawaii County is 63 physicians short of its need, Robinson said.