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Saturday, September 09, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023

The Bon Dance is a Week Away
This Bon Dance enthusiast helps his granddaughter make a Hachimaki headband to wear at Pāhala Hongwanji Bon Dance. This year's ceremonies, food and Pāhala Taiko drumming are next Saturday, Sept. 16, with the opening service at 4 p.m., to be followed by music and the traditional dancing in the round. A mother and infant in the traditional dress in the background also enjoy the festivities to celebrate ancestors and the harvest, a long-held tradition in Japan that came to Hawai‘i with sugar workers moving here. Attendees will be able to make their headbands at no charge in the old Japanese School House on the grounds of the Hongwanji. Photo by Julia Neal

GOV. JOSH GREEN, M.D. TALKED ABOUT BEING A DOCTOR IN KAʻŪ on Saturday when he announced a new loan repayment program for the education of physicians and other healthcare professionals across the Hawaiian Islands. The Healthcare Education Loan Repayment Program is called HELP and Green's statement describes it as "aggressive and far-reaching." Hawai‘i/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center joined Green to unveil the plan to address the growing shortages of physicians and other healthcare professionals in this state.
  Organizers of the new program estimate a shortage of about 4,000 healthcare professionals in Hawai‘i, most acutely affecting residents of rural areas and those with public insurance. The statewide shortage includes practitioners across medical, dental, and behavioral and mental health fields, with demand for primary care physicians, behavioral health providers, and particularly high demand for specialty physicians practicing in rural areas.
    To address the issue Hawai‘i Legislature appropriated $30 million for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 for the establishment of HELP. Licensed or certified for Hawai‘i, healthcare professionals, or those in training, may qualify for up to $50,000 in annual loan forgiveness in exchange for a two-year commitment to serve patients in Hawaiʻi.
    The Hawaiʻi/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center administers the program, and applications are accessible on its website. Applications are accepted twice a year in October and April, and AHEC will disburse awards in January and July.
    The program is developed by Hawai‘i's John A. Burns School of Medicine, Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i, and state Department of Health.
    Green said, "This announcement is the result of many years' worth of effort. I'm thinking back to my time working with colleagues in the state legislature on this loan repayment program and other ways to resolve the shortage of healthcare providers, so it is very rewarding to see it come to fruition so generously funded,"
    The Governor noted that he came to Hawai‘i through a similar program, the National Health Service Corps, and served Kaʻū. 
    The new program builds on the decade-old, federally funded Hawaiʻi State Loan Repayment Program by reaching a larger group of healthcare professionals. In exchange for two years of full-time or half-time service in Hawaiʻi, the following types of healthcare professionals will qualify for loan repayments starting at $12,500 and capped at $50,000. The eligible amount varies depending on the profession, location of practice, and educational indebtedness. All must provide care to, or work for organizations that provide care to, at least 30 percent of patients who are publicly insured.
    Eligible professions include: Audiologist and Behavior analyst, Certified physician assistant, Certified substance abuse counselor, Chiropractor, Clinical laboratory director, Clinical laboratory specialist, Community service dental hygienist, Community service dentist, Cytotechnologist, Dental hygienist, Dentist, Emergency Medical Technician, Industrial psychologist, Licensed bachelor social worker, Licensed clinical social worker, Licensed marriage and family therapist, Licensed practical nurse, Licensed social worker, Medical assistant, Medical laboratory technician, Medical technologist, Mental health counselor, Midwife, Naturopathic physician, Nurse aide. Nurse anesthetist, Nursing home administrator, Occupational therapist, Occupational therapy assistant, Optometrist, Osteopathic physician and surgeon, Paramedic. Pharmacist, Physical therapist, Physical therapist assistant, Physician, Physician assistant, Podiatrist, Psychologist, Radiology technician, Registered Dietician, Registered nurse, Respiratory therapist, Speech pathologist, Surgical assistant, Surgical technician, Surgical technologist
The statement from the Governor says that the state expects HELP to improve recruitment and retention of providers serving vulnerable populations, as well as those in medically underserved areas of Hawaiʻi, while lessening the burden of large educational debt.
    Hawaiʻi-Pacific Basin AHEC Director Dr. Kelley Withy said, "The current federally funded and state-matched Hawaiʻi State Loan Repayment Program has one of the highest retention rates in the country with

65% of loan repayers continuing to practice in their health professional shortage area and underserved community sites, and 80% of program completers still practicing in Hawai‘i. Our program works, and we are grateful to the 2023 legislature for continuing the matching funds for this federal program that targets the highest shortage areas and specialties. However, we know there is a severe shortage of multiple physician specialties, worse on the neighboring islands and rural Oʻahu, as well as critical nursing, allied health and behavioral health shortages."
    Interim Dean of John A. Burns School of Medicine, Dr. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum, said "These shortages were most evident during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but continue today. HELP expands loan repayment eligibility to so many working hard to keep the people of Hawaiʻi healthy. We hope that reducing their debt burden will help keep these professionals working here, and will also encourage our JABSOM graduates and others with Hawaiʻi ties to return home to practice."
NPS Photo by Janice Wei
The announcement was made at AHEC's annual Workforce Summit at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Nearly 1,000 attended to brainstorm ideas to boost the number of physicians in Hawaiʻi. The statement said that many believe HELP will be the driving force in bringing medical professionals home.
    While HELP is available to all qualifying healthcare professionals, the Governor said he especially encourages medical and behavioral health professionals practicing in Maui to apply.
    For more information and to apply for HELP, visit the AHEC website or call (808) 692-1060.

THIS IS NATIONAL PARK SERVICE FASHION WEEK and Hawaiʻi Volcanoes posted that it is "recognizing the unique look and style of the nēnē, the world's rarest goose! With our mock magazine cover, we wanted to highlight that nēnē nesting season is almost here, time to be on the lookout for nēnē while driving island roads and never, ever feed nēnē."
       The cover celebrates their feathers that "will leave you breathless." The mock magazine cover shows two geese posing and looking sideways at each other. Headlines read: "Hawaiʻi Volcanoes Magazine, best feather ideas, FREE ʻŌhelo Berry Voucher, New for Nesting Season, Nēnē mate for life but fashion is forever."

Verbesina once consumed available habitat for albatross to nest throughout all the islands on Midway Atoll
FRIENDS OF MIDWAY ATOLL has documented more than a decade of working to eradicate an invasive plant to help protect the nesting grounds for Laysan Albatrosses. "You can see the tremendous change in Midway's landscape after 12 years of Verbesina eradication efforts. It took persistent removal and treatment to exhaust the seedbank, but Verbesina is no longer a dominant land cover on Eastern and Sand Islands!' See more at https://friendsofmidway.org/verbesina-on-midway-before-and-after/
    Also see a Midway Albatross story at http://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2023_09_05_archive.html.
The albatross' wings caught on the branches and dense vegetation
 blocked the breeze, creating oven-like conditions for chicks.
Photos from U.S. Fish & Wildlife

5000 in the mail, 2,500 on the streets.