Categorized | Health

Doctor training program ready for patients in Hilo

Rod Thompson/Special to

The new Hawaii Island Family Medicine clinic on Mohouli Street in Hilo is open and treating patients, while also gearing up to become a teaching center for new doctors, officials said today (May 15) during a “sneak peek” at the facility.

While still in its very early stages, the facility promises eventually to bring more doctors to the Big Island, where they are desperately needed, supporters said.

The facility will treat patients, train doctors, hopefully convince young doctors to remain on the island, and provide an education center for nursing and pharmacy students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

“You get a lot of bang for the dollar,” said Dr. Boyd Maruyama of Hilo Medical Center.

Preparation for the treatment and teaching facility began in 2006. The federal government provided $1 million while the Hawaii Medical Service Association donated over $685,000.

But the program’s future was put in doubt at the end of 2008 when Gov. Linda Lingle declined to release $2.5 million appropriated for it by the Legislature.

Now two hurdles have been passed. The program needed $50,000 by the end of June to stay alive. It actually got $160,000 including individual donations, an anonymous $50,000 donation, and $68,000 from the County Council, said Lori Rogers of the Hilo Medical Center Foundation.

And the program has its first regular doctor, Lucy Bucci from New Mexico, who began seeing patients at the beginning of May.

But both staffing and financing need more beefing up before the facility can begin its teaching mission two years from now at the earliest.

Besides Bucci, at least two more experienced doctors must be recruited. They will treat patients and become “preceptors,” meaning teachers for young doctors doing three years of post graduation “residency” training.

First-year doctors will see patients only with an experienced doctor. In their second and third years, new doctors will consult with experienced doctors only on complex cases, Bucci said.

The program also needs at least $1.5 million between now and mid-2012. Efforts to get major funding in the recently ended session of the Legislature failed.

From the standpoint of family health, now is the time to register with the Hawaii Island Family Medicine Center at 45 Mohouli Street, across the street from the Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary School playground. Call 769-6100. The clinic is not a walk-in center, so registration is necessary.

Anyone wishing to make a donation, large of small, may call the Hilo Medical Center Foundation at 935-2957.

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