About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs April 20, 2013

Incentivizing health care training and practice in rural Hawai`i is the theme of a health care conference last week in
Pahala and today and tomorrow in Honolulu. Photo from Ka`u Rural Health Community Association
SHORTAGE OF DOCTORS AND OTHER HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS, particularly in rural areas like Ka`u, is a main theme of the 2013 Hawai`i Health Workforce Summit: Improving Provider Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability, today and tomorrow on O`ahu. West Ka`u state senator and physician Josh Green hosts the event, moderates panel discussions and introduces Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Green spearheaded legislation at the 2013 Hawai`i Legislature to incentivize doctors and other health care practitioners to practice in Hawai`i.
Sen. Josh Green hosts a convention
today on attracting more health
care providers.
      Organizers of the event, including Dr. Kelley Withy, of the John H. Burns School of Medicine and its Hawai`i/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center, has announced that the Big Island has a shortage of 194 physicians.
      Green said this morning that legislative support for incentives to draw health care providers here includes a bill for a residency program in Hilo that would result in outreach to rural places like Ka`u. He said another bill would help fund an `Imiloa program, which Green described as a pipeline to encourage and help pay for education for Native Hawaiians to become physicians.
      Green said his goal over time is to have one hundred physicians in the incentive programs to practice in underserved areas of Hawai`i in exchange for funding to help repay their medical school loans. He said the measures are likely to pass this year and predicts that the governor will sign them.
      Green said the conference today has attracted 250 health care professionals coming from each island. He said the event is paid from workforce funds collected through physician licensing fees that also go for data gathering and other research.
      A State Loan Repayment Program that was recently put in place encourages primary health care providers to work at designated Health Professional Shortage Areas in Hawai`i in exchange for providing relief in educational loan debt. Physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants are eligible. Physician specialties that qualify include family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, geriatrics and psychiatry. Health care professional can apply by Oct. 1. Nine physicians will be selected to receive $40,000 each to help pay off educational loans in return for a commitment of two years of practicing in underserved Hawai`i locations. Those selected are expected to be involved with workforce development activities like health career recruitment and teaching, in addition to practicing medicine.

Ka`u Hospital nursing director Nona Wilson and hospital clerk
Ty Chun, who trained on the job at home in Ka`u.
Photo from National Park Service
KA`U RURAL HEALTH COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION held its own conference last week in Pahala with a similar theme: Establishing a Ka`u Rural Health Academy: Focusing on Health, Education, Research Opportunities and Economic Sustainable Training Programs. Elisa Yadao, a senior vice president with health insurer HMSA, gave the keynote speech on The Impact of Establishing a Rural Health Academy in Ka`u. She talked about its value to preventative medicine, local health care services, enabling the elderly to stay in their homes and providing jobs for Ka`u.
      Ka`u Hospital director of Nursing, Nona Wilson, said the Ka`u conference was “all collaboration” with many representatives of agencies and educational and health institutions and community members participating. Wilson pointed out that Yadao “is homegrown, from Hilo, a Kamehameha School representative and former television news reporter. Her speech was down-to-earth as she explained how using technology can help rural Hawai`i.”
      Wilson talked about her own partnership with Ka`u Rural Health Community Association and its founder Jesse Marques to encourage better health care and economic opportunity. She discussed career ladders for registered nurses – to educate the youth of Ka`u for health care work while they stay in their home towns. She said she and Marques are talking to the community college, University of Hawai`i, University of Phoenix and other institutions. “Youth from Ka`u will be excellent health care providers. They understand the culture, and the people feel comfortable with them,” the Ka`u Hospital nursing director said.
      The issue of providing opportunity in Ka`u is about “growing your own,” said Wilson. “There is no reason we can’t do this,” she said, pointing to technology like Skype and other online educational tools. “We have all the tools we need to create opportunities for our own people to have meaningful careers, so they can support their families and stay at home and enjoy the community and the place that they love.” She suggested the Ka`u Rural Health Community Association’s Long Distance Learning Center, near the library in Pahala as an excellent place for education.
      In supporting education that keeps people at home, Wilson said, “One of the things that I get from the people of Ka`u is that they don’t want to give up their lifestyle, and their lifestyle is good.” She pointed to a certified nurses assistant training program initiated by Marques, from which Ka`u Hospital hired graduates. “That’s wonderful. Why can’t we do more?” asked Wilson.
      She described the staff at Ka`u Hospital as treating “everybody like family because they are family. You can’t teach people that. They have it. People take pride for providing services. Ka`u Hospital is homegrown,” she said.

Bills that passed the Legislature focus on efforts to modernize the state's
electrical grids.
BILLS INFLUENCING DECISIONS by the Public Utilities Commission have passed the state Legislature. 
      Senate Bill 1040 requires the PUC to consider in their decision-making the value of implementing advanced grid technology to accommodate more clean energy. “The increased scale, speed and accuracy of the information provided by advanced grid infrastructure systems can better support initiatives to break the state’s petroleum dependence,” the bill states.
      Senate Bill 120 directs the PUC to establish a policy to implement economic incentives and cost recovery regulatory mechanisms that would induce and accelerate electric utilities’ cost reduction efforts, encourage greater utilization of renewable energy, accelerate the retirement of utility fossil generation and increase investments to modernize the state’s electrical grids. The bill states that, using the current business model, “electric utilities are not incentivized to aggressively reduce energy costs or seek lower cost alternatives or efficiency gains.”
      “The current electric ratemaking process employs a single authorized rate of return that is applied equally to all utility plant investments,” the bill states. “This methodology does not differentiate between plant investments to modernize the electric grid, which should be encouraged, and investments to preserve old, inefficient fossil generation, which should be discouraged. Retiring old, inefficient utility fossil generation acts as a financial disincentive for electric utilities because the electric utilities can only earn a return on plant investment that is actually used and useful to provide utility service. The early retirement of utility fossil generation may create costs that are stranded and cannot be recovered from ratepayers. The continued operation of old, inefficient utility fossil generation therefore preserves existing utility financial returns.”
      The bills now go to the governor for consideration. The status of these and other bills is available at capitol.hawaii.gov.

“PLEASE PUT ASIDE POLITICS and consider the overall cost of using this unproven technology on the people of this Island as well as the entire state of Hawai`i,” writes Pahala resident Sara Witt to the Public Utilities Commission regarding the proposed contract for `Aina Koa Pono to grow feedstock and produce biofuel at a refinery in Ka`u. 
      Witt says AKP has “disregarded the concerns of the community over this project,” and refers to the question of whether an Environmental Impact Statement will be done.
      “The Island of Hawai`i pays the highest electricity rates in the state, affecting all commerce conducted on this Island. HELCO wants the public to pay for the expansion of their business, charging more and then passing on the cost,” Witt says. “As a business owner, this doesn’t make much sense to me. I was not aware that I could ask those in my community for money to expand my business and then charge them more for my services.
      “Not only is cost a factor of the `Aina Koa Pono, LLC fantasy, but the cost to our agriculture with the radiation from the huge microwaves.” Witt referred to research that microwaves harm bees.
      “The district of Ka`u wants to become the breadbasket of Hawai`i,” she said. “Let’s make decisions working toward this goal.”
      Although the period for public testimony on the proposed contract has passed, people can still send letters to the PUC at hawaii.puc@hawaii.gov or 465 South King Street, #103, Honolulu, HI 96813.

THE NATURE OF NATURE opens today at Volcano Art Center Gallery with a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Elizabeth Miller and John Matsushita works offer journeys into the multi-layered dimensions of life on Hawai`i Island through paintings and sculpture. The exhibit is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through June 2.

DURING NATIONAL PARK WEEK, Kilauea Military Camp in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park invites all park visitors to experience how KMC serves America’s troops. All facilities and services, including guest rooms, available to the general public Monday, April 22 to Friday, April 26. For more information, call 967-8371.
      Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park also waives entry fees for these dates.