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, March 25, 2017

Ka`u News Briefs Saturday, March 25, 2017

The last 2017 Ocean Count of humpback whales was held in Ka`u and around the state on Saturday, sponsored
by Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
File Photo by Danielle Cholewiak/NOAA
FINAL HAWAIIAN ISLANDS HUMPBACK WHALE NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY OCEAN COUNT for 2017 drew more than 380 volunteers to 48 sites along the shores of Ka`u and around the state on Saturday morning. Humpback whales are sensing summer coming on and starting to make their way north for the season after wintering in Hawai`i where they breed, give birth and nurse their calves each year.
Humpback females breed, give birth and nurse their calves in
Hawaiian waters each winter. Photo from NOAA
     Cindy Among-Serrao, the Ocean Count Project Coordinator, said that during the count from 8 a.m. until noon, 85 whale sightings were recorded during one 8:35 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. time slot, the most during any period of the day. Volunteers not only counted but recorded whale and other marine life activity.
     "It was a nice sunny day with the occasional cloud cover which was great for volunteers but whale viewing conditions were not so favorable due to the presence of gusty winds and choppy waters," said Among-Serrao.
     Statewide more than 1500 volunteers participated during three Sanctuary Ocean Count days in January, February and March, the peek, time for whales living in Hawaiian waters before they take off to Alaska and Japan for the summer with their calves born and nursed in Hawai`i. The largest number of whales in one day in Ka`u and Volcano were seen at Ka Lae - South Point and at Ka`ena Point - the bottom of Chain of Craters Road.
     Ocean Count serves to promote public awareness about humpback whales, the sanctuary, and shore-based whale watching opportunities. The count is conducted three times per year during the peak whale season and provides a snapshot of humpback whales sightings from the shoreline. Participants tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals' surface behaviors during the survey. See http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov.

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WHAT'S NEXT IN IMPROVING HEALTH CARE? Though the Affordable Care Act still in place, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said there is much to do to improve health care delivery, particularly in rural areas like Ka`u. Gabbard said that she was happy to report that the proposed American Health Care Act, slated to replace the ACA, was pulled from the U.S. House of Representatives floor Friday "due to lack of support. It's a terrible bill that was basically written by insurance and pharmaceutical corporations on the backs of the most needy and vulnerable. There are serious problems with our health care system that must be addressed, but this bill was not the solution - it would have just made things worse. This is not the end. We must continue to work for a healthcare system that puts the health and well being of people first."      She noted that Medicare and Medicaid "help provide access to quality healthcare for nearly 130 million Americans, including close to 570,000 people in Hawai`i." She pointed to her sponsorship of the Medicare Premium Fairness Act "to prevent premium and deductible increases for those enrolled in Medicare, and the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act to help ensure those who are the most in need continue to have access to quality and affordable care." She said she is also working to increase the Medicare reimbursement rate to help expand health care access and retain physicians in rural communities like Ka`u. She also reviewed other efforts toward improving health care:

KA`U'S MARSHALLESE COMMUNITY is underserved in health care and Gabbard vowed to help restore federal funding for health care promised to Compacts of Free Association migrants. In 1996, Congress passed a law that made migrants from Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands ineligible for federal Medicaid dollars, despite an earlier commitment from the U.S. after it used the islands for nuclear weapons testing between 1946 and 1962. Many families had to evacuate their home islands after the U.S. established the Pacific Proving Grounds and conducted 105 atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests. Generations later, many of the islands remain contaminated by nuclear fallout and the descendants of those who lived there can still not return to their ancestral islands.
     A number of Marshallese families live in Ka`u, particularly in Ocean View. Many of them work
Marshallese students who attend Ka`u schools. with family members
working in the coffee industry and construction, are underserved with
health care, promised to them by the U.S. government.
Photo by Julia Neal
in the coffee and construction industries with some children entering public school without English skills.
     "Without federal dollars, Hawai'i has borne the cost of care for COFA migrants, which has strained our state's resources," said Gabbard. "Each year, Hawai'i spends an estimated $30 to $40 million to provide health care to these families. Gabbard introduced theRestore Medicaid to Compact of Free Association Migrants Act "to right this wrong, require the federal government to fulfill its obligations, honor our COFA, and share the cost of providing health care," she said.

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KA`U HOSPITAL IS A CRITICAL ACCESS HOSPITAL, always under threat of losing funding. Gabbard said, "People from every island deserve access to the highest quality of health care." She said she visited rural hospitals and saw the "remote locations, lack of funding, and staff shortages." She proposed to help "solve these challenges and create greater access to care in our rural and underserved communities." Gabbard also cosponsored the CONNECT for Health Act to remove Medicare barriers to tele-health and remote patient monitoring services.

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VETERANS HEALTH CARE will continue to be another concern, said Gabbard. "While veterans have been experiencing delays and obstacles in receiving VA healthcare for decades, in 2014, our country's failure to fulfill its promise to our veterans was starkly exposed. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans faced wait times of 90 days or more to see a doctor. Hawaiʻi veterans experienced the worst wait times in the country, averaging 145 days—almost five months—just to see a primary care physician for the first time."
Better health care for veterans is the aim of several bills
before the U.S. Congress. Photo from www.filipiknow.net
     She referred to her bill called the Access to Care and Treatment Now for Veterans Act to allow veterans not getting timely healthcare from the VA to get care from non-VA medical providers. This policy was ultimately included in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act that became law at the end of 2014. She said she promises to do more to eliminate the unacceptable wait times veterans still face today.
     She also passed an amendment in the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act to provide military retirees living more than 100 miles from a military treatment facility the option to re-enroll in TRICARE Prime. The amendment reversed a 2013 policy that eliminated this access and created barriers for veterans. She recently cosponsored legislation to require that management positions be filled at VA medical facilities.

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UNIVERSITY CLASSES OFFERED IN THE HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE is a goal of Sen. Kai Kahele, whose family is from Miloli`i and father Gil Kahele served as a state Senator from the district that included Ka`u. Kai Kahele, who represents Hilo, authored a bill in the state Senate that made it through the double deferral filing deadline on Thursday.
     Senate Bill 848, House Draft 2 would authorize an Olelo Hawai`i pilot project at any of the ten University of Hawai`i campuses. "The na`au (core) of the bill is the opportunity to provide the pursuit of higher education at our state university through the medium of Hawaiian language," he said. Kahele said the implementation will take time, with initial focus on general education core requirement. He described the plan as "great for the University of Hawai`i and the hundreds if not thousands of keiki across the K-12 Hawaiian language immersion schools."  See the bill and comment at  SB848 SD2 HD2.
Senator Kai Kahele, whose family comes from Miloli`i, is proposing
University of Hawai`i core courses to be taught in the Hawaiian
language. Photo by Kai Kahele
      Kahele said he is also concerned about rising tuition at the U.H. main campus, with the cost averaging $11,000 per year. Even though a bargain compared to some other state universities, he noted that fewer students have registered each year since 2009 and that overall cost of living and tuition can be less expensive on the mainland. "Higher education is slowly becoming out of their reach," he said, referring to the local student enrollment.
      He noted that since 2009, annual state support of the university has dropped by $32 million.

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Hawaiian Hoary Bats, Tue, Mar 28, 7 p.m., Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. USGS bat biologist and researcher Corinna Pinzari reveals recent research and examines ‘ōpe‘ape‘a’s current status and distribution. Free; park entrance feed apply.

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