Emergency room team members pose for a photo in the Hale Ho’ola Hamakua emergency room. From left, Damien Maikui, Lyell Valdez in front, Joyce Harris and Faith Olivera. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
The entrance to Hale Ho’ola Hamakua critical access hospital in Honokaa. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Sarah Davis, an occupational therapist at Hale Ho’ola, helps a patient practice walking. In the background are Malia Phillips and Lillian Lee. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Jim Savage, sonographer, shares his excitement and dedication to ultrasound as a window into the inner workings of the human body. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
The view from the day room over Honokaa and out to the Pacific Ocean at Hale Ho’ola is inspiring. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Hale Ho’ola Hamakua team members work in the emergency room. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Dr. Bruce Graves, “Dr. Bruce” to Hale Ho’ola staff and residents, high fives Terry DeVera, who runs the hospital auxiliary during their morning ritual. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Lani and and Dr. Bruce Graves, hospitalist at Hale Ho’ola. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Father Juan Pablo Galeano, administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Honokaa, makes regular visits to the facility. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Faith Olivera, emergency room nursing director, and Duane Uyetake, facilities maintenance, check out the bike and skateboard helmets that Hale Ho’ola staff will be giving away at the Peace Parade in Honokaa. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Hopefully you’ll stay healthy, but if you ever need to visit the emergency room at Hale Ho’ola Hamakua in Honokaa, you’re guaranteed to see a familiar face among the staff.
“The staff really takes ownership for what we do,” said a member of the nursing staff. “A lot of us are from here, and we know everyone who walks through the door. We take a lot of pride providing the best quality care.”
Hale Ho’ola Hamakua, which means Haven of Wellness, is a critical access hospital licensed by the State of Hawaii, Department of Health, and is a Medicare and Medicaid Certified provider.
Most people know it for its long-term care, but it also has emergency room services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with laboratory and x-ray services.
There are more than 20 doctors affiliated with their emergency medicine through Hawaii Emergency Physicians Association that rotate between the hospital and Hilo Medical Center and North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea. Hale Ho’ola Hamakua has been working with HEPA doctors since 2011.
The hospital has a total of 77 beds – 11 acute and skilled nursing beds, as well as 66 long-term care beds for intermediate or skilled nursing care. Dr. Bruce Graves is the hospitalist and chief of staff, and Dr. Malia Haleakala is the hospital medical director.
“Many of us who work at HHH believe we have found the ‘gem’ of the Hamakua coast,” said Cathy Meyer-Uyehara, hospital administrator. “Our staff is focused on giving quality, compassionate care. We have a great team who bring their passion to work for the community every day.”
Meyer-Uyehara said that since she joined the staff four years ago, she has seen many “amazing changes.” Since 2009, they have opened the additional “Maile” wing, which expanded the hospital from 50 to 77 beds, increased their critical access designated beds from 4 to 11 to accommodate more acute and skilled care, attained a fully staffed rehabilitation department, opened rehabilitation to outpatient services, began providing infusion treatments on an outpatient basis, and acquired new digital imaging equipment in the X-ray department.
The restorative nursing and rehabilitative services, both inpatient and outpatient, include: physical therapy, occupational and speech therapy, respiratory therapy, laboratory services, X-ray services, pharmacy, social services, infusion therapy and Holter monitoring and ultrasound.
According to Faith Olivera, nurse manager for the emergency room, there are six registered nurses, with one registered nurse on at any time assigned to the ER. There are nine certified nursing assistants that are assigned to the long-term care, but that are trained to assist in ER when needed. The ER averages about 200 visits per month, with about one transfer a month.
“We take anybody who walks in and if they have to go to another hospital … we stabilize them and transfer them to the most appropriate facility,” Olivera said of the ER.
The ER has no operating room or CT scan, and patients who need to go to Oahu are taken to the Waimea Airport and transported by Hawaii Life Flight.
Olivera said that to her, an important value of the hospital is its qualified, attentive professional, and friendly staff.
“That is what a lot of people like about being at Honokaa,” Olivera said.
An important and growing area of the hospital is the rehabilitation services, which includes physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Sarah Davis, physical therapy and the rehabilitation services manager, said that the department helps about 30 patients, both inpatient and outpatient, per week. She said patients range in age from about 17 to 90 years old and have a variety of rehabilitation needs. Davis said that she enjoys working with her patients and helping them recover independence at any level.
“I can see the day-to-day improvements – on their abilities to ambulate or balance at the sink to wash their hands,” Davis said. “It is really rewarding because the change over time is really amazing.”
She also said she enjoys working with an older population that have lost a level of ability and she enjoys educating and motivating them.
“A lot of times, people have a misconception that they are old and they can’t get better,” she said. “But they can get better.”
In addition to physical therapy and IV therapy, Hale Ho’ola Hamakua is quickly being recognized for their expert wound care led by Lillian Lee, a board-certified wound care specialist with extensive training in the newest techniques. She is trained to use a KCI vacuum-assisted closure therapy that helps wounds heal more quickly – a technique especially suited for patients with diabetes and other conditions with poor profusion.
Lee has worked with doctors and surgeons at all the area hospitals, so they are aware of her proficiency.
“Having that knowledge really gives them that confidence we are able to take care of complicated wounds, Lee said.
The newest addition to Hale Ho’ola Hamakua is ultrasound offered by Ultrasound Specialties.
“When most people think of ultrasound, they think of obstetrics, but ultrasounds have so many uses,” said Jim Savage, owner of Ultrasound Specialties with his wife, Angela. “It started out in cardiac—it was the very first application for it. And then OB-GYN quickly adopted it, and it has spread into every subspecialty. Anything with soft tissue, people are using it.”
Ultrasound Technologies has a state-of-the-art, $250,000 ultrasound machine. Savage said that despite the equipment, accuracy and reliability also depend on the credentials and education of the sonographer. Savage has credentials from the American Registry of Diagnostic medical Sonographers for each ultrasound subspecialty performed.
“We do more than 30 different types of ultrasounds here, so there are many different organ systems we look at and of course, the organ systems have a big, long list of pathologies that we look for,” said Savage.
Savage said he makes a specific point of educating patients as he performs tests and treats them with respect and compassion.
Hale Ho’ola Hamakua auxiliary
Terry DeVera, volunteer, runs a snack shop from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., Monday through Thursday, in the hospital lobby and she organizes a rummage sale every Thursday as part of the Hale Ho’ola Hamakua auxiliary. The shop generates about $30 in profit – all dedicated to the long-term care patients, so they can attend outings, and other activities, such as have their hair done with a hairdresser that visits.
“They get excellent health care, but it is also the personal care that make a difference for them,” she said.
Hale Ho’ola Hamakua Foundation
Farrah-Marie Gomes, HHH Foundation board president, said that the purpose of the foundation is to help provide financial support through grants and donations, to help purchase equipment and help with other needs of the hospital that fall outside of its operating budget. The foundation is a separate, non-profit entity.
“We definitely know that the hospital is doing great work and we want to be able to complement that so they can focus their energies on what they do,” Gomes said.
Gomes said that they hope to raise funds for the hospital through Na Mele Makana, a slack key concert series featuring Martin Pahinui hosted by George Kahumoku at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, at the Honokaa People’s Theatre.
She said one of her goals is to cultivate other leaders to “step up” and help the hospital with fund raising.
“We have lots of potential for greatness in this community,” Gomes said.
To donate or to help the HHH Foundation, visit their website at www.halehoolahamakuafoundation.org. To volunteer at Hale Ho’ola Hamakua, contact Stephanie Peikert at 932-4153. To make an appointment with Ultrasound Specialties, call 775-9000, or email UltrasoundSpecialties@gmail.com.