These patients could have few alternatives for life-saving care if key pharmacy closes
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - “Traffic is really hectic nowadays.”
It’s one of the many reasons Bruce Brumeghim is grateful he lives so close to Kona Community Hospital.
Every other Thursday, doctors have the Kailua-Kona resident come in for chemotherapy to treat his bone marrow cancer. The IV infusion is made right on-site in the hospital’s pharmacy.
But Brumeghim may soon be forced to go elsewhere for those life-saving drugs.
That’s because Kona Community Hospital’s pharmacy could be forced to close if it doesn’t meet new regulations set to go in effect later this year.
Technicians at the facility get more than 500 patient visits every month.
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But the care could be put on hold if hospital leadership can’t convince the Legislature to provide it with $2.3 million. That’s the rest of the money it needs to finish an expansion project that’ll bring the facility up to code.
“Patients that we are currently seeing won’t be able to receive the care they need,” said Clayton McGhan, chief executive officer for the West Hawaii Region.
“It has a huge effect.”
If the pharmacy closes, patients would have to travel to the East Hawaii Health Cancer Center in Hilo.
It’s about a two-hour drive ― one-way.
The only other option is North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea. That’s at least an hour’s drive one-way.
And that’s only if they can get an appointment.
HNN asked both facilities how many additional patients they can treat.
A spokesperson for the East Hawaii Cancer Center didn’t give an exact number instead saying in a statement:
“We would work with our providers to triage patients with the most acute needs and do our best to care for the needs of our island.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for North Hawaii Community Hospital said the facility “could absorb about five to 10 additional infusion per week.”
Kona Community Hospital Director of Pharmacy Missy Elliot pointed out that when patients are undergoing chemotherapy, traveling long distances becomes very difficult.
“They’re tired, they’re sick, they may have nausea, vomiting diarrhea. And they’re in pain,” she said.
Brumeghim added, “A lot of the people who come here, the patients, lot of them not capable to drive and all that. It would be devastating if they shut this facility down.”
HNN confirmed both facilities in Hilo and Waimea are already in compliance with the new federal regulations, which are set to go into effect Nov. 1.
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