KEALAKEHE, Hawaii – A blessing ceremony was held on Thursday at the Lai‘opua Community Center Complex to mark the beginning of work on the new West Hawaii Community Health Center Kealakehe.
The planned 10,000 square foot facility hopes to meet the health needs of the growing Kona community, and will be able to handle “several thousand new patients, minimize critical wait time for appointments, enhance coordination of health and social services and improve health outcomes,” according to a West Hawaii Community Health Center media release. The health center should be up and running by mid-2015. The first phase will include 4 exam rooms, a procedure room, 3 dental operatories for pediatrics and 2 for adults, patient services area and equipment storage.
The center’s media release describes the scene of Thursday’s blessing:
|Following an Opening Pule by Aunty Elizabeth Maluihi Lee, remarks were given by Wally Lau, Managing Director on behalf of Mayor Kenoi, County of Hawaii who is traveling off island. Retired U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka shared the story about his part in getting the funding for the new health center at Kealakehe, and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Deputy Director, Darrell Young relayed that the land was being used wisely for the health of the Hawaiians living in the Kealakehe ahupua’a and surrounding communities.
Executive Director, Bo Kahui, La’i ‘Opua 2020, and West Hawaii Community Health Center Executive Director Richard Taaffe, made remarks about their individual organizations and how the partnership has been key to the success of the new medical and dental center in north Kona.
Following lineal descendant, Nicole Lui who shared who shared stories of those who have come before on these lands, a culturally-led site blessing was conducted by Kumu Nalei Kunewa. A traditional luau lunch was served after the ceremony.
Here is a portion of the speech given by retired Sen. Daniel Akaka during the ceremony.
The new health center will join four other existing facilities around the island in Kailua-Kona, Kealakekua, Waikoloa and the roving West Hawaii Community Health Center Dental Van based in Kailua-Kona.
The same media release detailed how the West Hawaii Community Health Center came to be:
|For well over a decade, The Salvation Army operated a “mini” health clinic where they would provide medical services to their clients who tended to be the underserved, homeless, and in need of assistance. In 2002 the Salvation Army announced they needed to revert to their mission and let go of the medical clinic. An Army task force took the issue to the public, and with the help of the community was able to open West Hawaii Community Health Center in January 2005. West Hawaii Community Health Center has grown to become an integral part of the West Hawaii community and strives to provide quality and affordable healthcare to residents and visiting guests.
A year after opening, West Hawaii Community Health Center received its Federally Qualified Health Center status, paving the way for a cost-effective approach to delivering health care to the underserved and uninsured in West Hawaii communities. From the first year in 2005, when 2,200 patient visits were recorded to more than 40,498 at the end of 2012, the growth has been phenomenal.