Healthy Bites

Emergency mobile units and the closure of the Native Hawaiian Center for Excellence

July, 2007

Going Mobile

This summer, the state will receive two new Acute Care Modules, or portable hospitals, that can hold up to 20 people each in an emergency or pandemic. The modules house sanitary systems, tents, showers, stretchers, lighting and patient-care equipment.

The state already has four modules: a 50-bed unit on Oahu, and 20-bed units on Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. The additional two units will be placed on Maui and the Big Island. All six modules were purchased with federal grants between $150,000 and $300,000.

The portable hospitals come at a good time. “We’ve identified a few fairly serious gaps in readiness,” says Toby Clairmont, a registered nurse and director of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii’s emergency services. Hawaii has an inadequate number of public shelters and not enough shelters to care for medically fragile, elderly and disabled. “Most of our hospitals do not have adequate emergency power generators to sustain services,” he adds.

This summer, his emergency services team also plans to deploy five large containers filled with medical supplies for 250 patients who don’t need critical care, he says.

Health Care Pays

According to Healthcare Association of Hawaii, Hawaii’s healthcare industry pays an annual average of $43,500, approximately 23 percent higher than the state’s annual average salary, or 33 percent higher than private-industry salaries. The higher wages in healthcare are results of staffing shortages. Here is a detailed look at the past few years:

Native Hawaiian Center closes

The Native Hawaiian Center for Excellence at the John A. Burns School of Medicine shut down last May, due to federal cuts. The center opened in 1991 with a grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The center became part of the medical school in 2003.

Executive Director Dr. Benjamin Young has retired. Young is a former med school dean and is the first Native Hawaiian to be certified by the American Board of Psychiatry. “Dr. Young put on some really innovative health conferences, and his funding was targeted specifically for native Hawaiians,” says Dr. Marjorie Mau, chairperson of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health.

The majority of grants and state funding are not targeted specifically for Native Hawaiians but towards serving natives who live in mixed communities, she says. “The biggest loss is not having a partner in Native Hawaiian issues,” she says.

Federal cuts in Title VII health-professions funds have forced the closure of other centers of excellence across the country. “There is a strong undercurrent nationally to reinstate the centers of excellence, but it won’t happen until we have a new administration,” Mau says.


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Cathy S. Cruz