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HGEA members voice concerns about potential takeover of public hospitals by Banner Health

February 08, 2013

On Feb. 6, concerned union members testified before the House of Representatives joint House Health Committee and House Labor & Public Employment Committee hearing in opposition to H.B. 1483 and H.B. 1484, relating to the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation. Thank you to the members who took the time to submit written testimonies and to those who were able to attend the hearing and testify in person.
Update – Feb. 8, 2013: The committees voted to make significant changes to both bills. All of the language contained in H.B. 1483 was gutted and replaced with language to create a task force that will examine and recommend a course of action for the HHSC system. The final language of the proposed draft (H.B. 1483 H.D. 1) can be viewed here. H.B. 1484 was amended to delete different provisions of the bill. The final language of the proposed draft (H.B. 1484 H.D. 1) can be viewed here. Both H.B. 1483 and 1484 are referred to the Committee on Economic Development and the Committee on Finance. The Committee on Economic Development must hear the bills prior to the Friday, Feb. 15 First Lateral deadline.
This fight is not over — the threat of a takeover by Banner continues! We urge you to continue to contact your legislators to let them know you strongly oppose the bills as legislation is moving quickly.

In his testimony, HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira said, “This is all about Banner Health. There’s nothing altruistic about this private company’s interest in Hawaii; it’s not an interest in just improving the health care, it’s about making money. We have some very serious opposition to the prospect that the taxpayers are going to continue to subsidize operations for our public hospital system in favor of a private entity, nonprofit or not.” (To view video of Perreira’s testimony, click here.)

In written testimony that was submitted on behalf of HGEA, Perreira stated that the HHSC’s system of community hospitals on the neighbor islands provides a safety net to ensure access to health care for all citizens. Putting health care decisions in the hands of a mainland provider is “not in the best interest of our communities,” he said. (To read the full testimony, click here.)

HHSC executives and regional board directors testified in support of the bills. Responding to their statements that their discussions with Banner Health are only in the “preliminary” or “exploratory” stage, Perreira pointed out that Banner Health has already signed an exclusivity agreement with Maui Memorial Medical Center and Hilo Medical Center.

Unit 9 members Maria “Lupe” Ochoa-Smith (Hilo Medical Center) and Barbara “Susie” Uwekoolani  (Maui Memorial Medical Center) also testified against the bills. “My big concern is that they’re going to be requesting funds from the state for the next five to seven years. The other concern is that we’re hiring a private organization from the mainland to do their job here,” said Ochoa-Smith. “What we care about is the quality of care – we want our patients to get the best care that they can get. Of course, we’re always trying to figure out ways to cut the costs. But is the money going to stay here or is the money going to go with them? In this economy we need our monies to stay here.” (To view video of Ochoa-Smith’s testimony, click here.)

“I feel like they’re not going to provide the kind of care we want for our community,” said Uwekoolani. In addition, she said, there will be displacement of employees and disruption in the community with the potential removal of mental health services and long term care that are not “money makers.” (To view video of Uwekoolani’s testimony, click here.)

Health Committee Chair Della Au Belatti and Vice Chair Dee Morikawa, House Labor & Public Employment Committee Chair Mark Nakashima and Vice Chair Mark Hashem, and members of the respective committees, received approximately 200 pieces of testimony relating in opposition to the bills. At the hearing ILWU also testified against the bills.

We will continue to update members on the status of these bills as more information becomes available.

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