Categorized | Opinions

Opinion: Rural and family health care bills up for hearing today

Members of the House Finance Committee today are considering HB 343 related to a rural primary health care training program and the Family Medicine Residency Program of the UH John A Burns School of Medicine. They will be hearing this bill today at 3:00 p.m. so it would be best to contact them before 1 p.m.

As we know, the state’s fiscal situation is pretty dire and bills with appropriations have a slim chance of passing. The Big Island is experiencing a severe health care shortage and this bill will increase the number of doctors practicing on the neighbor islands. The cost of doing nothing will be greater than the cost of implementing this program!

So, if you believe this should be a spending priority, you are urged to call or email committee members this morning. Here are the contacts for the committee’s chair and vice chair:

House Finance Committee Chairman Marcus R. Oshiro, phone 974-4000, ext. 66200 or e-mail

Vice Chairwoman Marilyn B. Lee,
phone 974-4000, ext. 69460 or email

Here’s the bill and here’s planned testimony by the AARP specific to the Big Island. Good stuff!!!

Anything you can do to help the cause would be SO APPRECIATED!

Testimony below!

Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 3:00 p.m., Conference Room 308, State Capitol
Re: HB 343 HD1 Relating to Rural Primary Health Care Training Program

Good afternoon, Chair Oshiro and Committee Members.

My name is Jackie Boland and I’m an Associate State Director for AARP Hawaii. AARP is a membership organization of people 50 and older with nearly 160,000 members in Hawaii. We are submitting testimony in support of HB 343 which appropriates funds to develop a statewide Rural Primary Health Care Training Program and supports the Family Medicine Residency Program of the UH John A Burns School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

It is no secret that Hawaii’s rural islands have a critical shortage of physicians and that the problem is getting worse as doctors retire or leave the islands. AARP believes that all individuals have a right to health care services when they need them and that the public, through the government, has the ultimate responsibility to develop a system that ensures access to needed physical and mental health care services for all individuals with special consideration given to eliminating disparities in care and ensuring access for minorities, people with disabilities and medically underserved communities.

Our members on neighbor islands, particularly the Big Island, are experiencing trouble getting care when they need it. In the AARP 2008 Hawaii Health and Long-term Care Survey, 24% of participants state wide said that in the preceding two years they had skipped a doctors visit when they felt the needed to have one. Of the Big Island respondents, 20% of those in Hilo and 13% in Kona said that the reason for not visiting the doctor was that there was no doctor or health care provider available. The full survey can be accessed at

Within our own volunteer corps, we find that many are traveling to Oahu for care or have had to wait for care. When the grandson of our Chapter President in Hilo, broke his arm, there was no orthopedic doctor available to set it and the boy had to wait three days for his cast. Another member had been traveling for two years between Oahu and Waimea to care for her father, who suffered from dementia. When his condition worsened beyond her ability to provide care, she finally made the decision to put him in a Hilo nursing facility. However, though there was a bed available, she discovered that he could not be admitted without a Hilo physician. No physicians in Hilo were accepting new patients so she could not get him admitted and was faced with the choice of removing him from his home island or providing him with minimal care in the face of his growing need.

Hawaii’s population is aging at a rapid rate and in the next 22 years we can expect an 86% increase in those 65+. Ensuring that our people have access to medical services is critical. Our neighbor islands are already underserved and if we fail to find ways to address the physician shortages, the disparity in care will continue to grow, forcing people to leave their homes and communities. The cost of doing nothing on this issue is great. We urge you to pass this measure.

Frances Stapelton

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