Long before North Hawaii Community Hospital and Queen’s Health Systems decided to work toward formalizing an affiliation, the two organizations had a much deeper historical connection.
Queen Emma was a childhood friend of Lucy Kahi’ehi’e Peabody, whose 12-acre parcel of land the hospital now sits, through the trust of her cousin, Lucy Kalanikumaiki’eki’e Henriques. Queen Emma and Lucy Peabody were such good friends that she was even a bridesmaid at Queen Emma’s wedding to King Kamehameha IV in 1856, according to Art Ushijima, Queen’s Health Systems CEO.
“It is a unique chicken skin moment that is going back to individuals as well,” said Ushijima during a talk story session at North Hawaii Education and Research Center in Honokaa of the discovered connection.
About 50 people attended the meeting to learn more about a formal affiliation between the two health care organizations. The boards of both health care organizations will meet in the next several weeks, with the Queen’s board meeting on Dec. 16 to decide on a formal affiliation.
Originally started in 1977 as the Lucy Henriques Medical Center, North Hawaii Community Hospital opened in 1996, and is a private, non-profit community hospital that serves more than 30,000 residents in North Hawaii. King Kamehameha and Queen Emma started the Queen’s Hospital in 1859. It grew and became the Queen’s Health Systems, a not-for-profit corporation in 1985.
After being approached by Bob Momsen, NHCH board chairman, more than a year and a half ago, Queen’s began a due diligence process around June of this year.
“We are going to look at each other closely and decide if we want to get married,” Ushijima said about the process.
Both sides signed confidentiality agreements. Ushijima said Queen’s felt they needed to meet with community groups in the area before making a decision, and they arranged meetings in Waimea at the Waimea Community Association on Nov. 7, at NHERC in Honokaa and in North Kohala on Nov. 18.
“What we really wanted to get a sense of (from the meetings) is whether there is generally broad based community support for us to come together,” he said.
He said Queen’s Health Systems held the North Hawaii community meetings to solicit input, to give the community an opportunity to share concerns and to learn the sensitive issues of which Queen’s needs to be aware.
“It is really a mutual process,” Ushijima said. “I think we can say we want to come together. From our perspective, there aren’t any really big red flags that we can’t overcome and manage.”
Ushijima said that there are challenges and the “folks at NHCH acknowledge that.”
“It is really an undertaking to start the process of how we work together under a single umbrella,” Ushijima said.
Ushijima said that there are five strategic dimensions that are part of the Queen’s criteria for health care: providing quality and performance, being the provider of choice, being the employer of choice, being responsible citizens, and having a solid financial mission.
“No margin, no mission,” Ushijima said.
Ushijima said that when they looked at materials from NHCH, one of the things they examined was their mission statement. He said with its strong mission to serve native Hawaiians, he was surprised to learn that NHCH had its own Native Hawaiian Health Program, Kaheleaulani.
“It is very similar in terms and alignment with our mission,” Ushijima said. “It gave us a foundation of a relationship of how we are going to work together.”
At the NHERC talk story session on Nov. 12, the questions asked by community members were similar to those asked at the Waimea Community Association mTown Meeting – physician recruitment, collaborating with other local medical facilities, and NHCH board operation.
Ushijima said if the affiliation with NHCH is formalized, they would appoint a transition team and begin the search for the right person to lead the hospital that will provide the support needed.
“As part of the planning process I have asked our team to develop a three-year plan,” he said. “I am a firm believer in Murphy’s Law, but what is important is that we have a clear understanding of our goals and not try to put in quick fixes. There are some very fundamental things that we need to put in place as a management team.”
He said it is important, too, that they are clear on the goals and that they work toward them. He said they can’t make any promises, especially with the complexity of healthcare, but that their intent is noble – to improve the quality of care and improve access.
“We try our best and we will do our best,” he said. “We won’t be perfect, but we (hope to) really make this an endeavor that everyone will be proud of. Queen Emma and King Kamehameha – their legacy will be perpetuated.”