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Department of Health Cites Ken’s Towing for Vehicle Salvage and Solid Waste Inspection Violations

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has filed a Notice of Violation and Order against Ken’s Towing Service, Inc. The violations occurred at 55 Kukila Street in Hilo, Hawaii (TMK 2-2-058:027 and 2-2-047:061) and involved the operation of an unpermitted vehicle salvage facility and the obstruction of a DOH inspection.


Ken’s Towing Service, Inc. was previously operating under a solid waste management permit that expired in February 2012. DOH conducted an inspection of the facility on Mar. 13, 2013 and found approximately 40 junk vehicles, at least five cubic yards of scrap metal, at least 100 scrap tires, and approximately 3 pallets of shrink wrapped lead acid batteries.

The company submitted a permit application in June 2013, but the department was unable to issue the permit as the facility neglected to finish the permit process and the application remains incomplete. On Oct. 20, 2014, DOH attempted an inspection of the facility and was denied entry.

Based on these findings and events, DOH has imposed a penalty of $7,500, and ordered the facility to remove all solid waste and close the unpermitted salvage operation. Ken’s Towing Service, Inc. may request a hearing to contest the allegations or order.

The DOH, Solid Waste Section regulates standards governing the design, construction, installation, operation, and maintenance of solid waste disposal, recycling, reclamation, and transfer systems. Such standards are intended to prevent pollution of the drinking water supply or waters of the state; prevent air pollution; prevent the spread of disease and the creation of nuisances; protect public health and safety; conserve natural resources; and preserve and enhance the beauty and quality of the environment.

Hawaii’s Health Insurance Premiums on the Rise, Burden to Employers

Hawaii’s health insurance premiums for small businesses have risen an average of seven percent annually since 2003. That’s according to “The Challenges Facing Hawaii 40 Years After the Prepaid Health Care Act (PHCA),” a study conducted by Hawaii Health Information Corporation, the state’s premier healthcare data collector and analyzer.

Healthcare dataPassed in 1974, the State’s PHCA has contributed to one of the lowest uninsured rates as well as the lowest and slowest growing health insurance premiums in the nation. Still, the cost of health care—physician, hospital and insurance services, prescription drugs, equipment and supplies—is steadily increasing.

ACA is Impacting Rising Costs
On top of increasing health care costs, premiums are expected to rise further as a result of various Affordable Care Act-related fees. For example, HMSA’s fees in 2014 totaled $65.4 million, and as was done across the country, fees were passed directly on to consumers. Four out of nine percent of HMSA’s premium increases for small business was attributed to ACA-related fees in that same year.

The most significant ACA-related fee is the insurance provider fee, imposed on all insurers to subsidize health insurance for eligible individuals who purchase a plan on a health exchange. In implementation year 2014, $8 billion was collected nationwide. Nearly 60 percent of HMSA’s 2014 ACA-related fees—$39 million—represented the insurance provider fee. The insurance provider fee is permanent and expected to increase two to three percent per year to cover the subsidies for health care premiums. The fee is projected to reach $14.3 billion in 2018.

The second fee helps finance the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Initially set at $1 per insured person during FY 2013, the fee increased to $2 per insured person on all plans during FY 2014. Going forward, the fee will be adjusted based on the U.S. average rate of health care inflation, which was nearly three percent per year from 2010 to 2013.

Since the ACA prohibits denying individuals health insurance based on pre-existing conditions, the third fee involves subsidizing high-risk enrollees through the transitional reinsurance and risk-adjustment programs. Scheduled to last only three years, the transitional reinsurance program collected and distributed $10 billion in 2014 (translates to a $63 fee per covered life); $6 billion is anticipated in 2015 and $4 billion in 2016. The risk adjustment program is permanent; insurers with lower-risk enrollees will pay insurers with higher risk enrollees within the same state.

The final fee is a sustainability fee to finance health insurance exchanges since federal funds have been exhausted. By the end of 2014, Hawaii imposed a two percent sustainability fee on premiums purchased that year on the then state-run exchange. Since Hawaii no longer has a state-based exchange, sustainability fees collected will go to funding the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov.

The employee-employer cost share structure laid out in the PHCA, rising health care costs and in recent years, these ACA-related fees, has led to employers in Hawaii paying an increase of more than 3,000 percent to cover their portion of employer-based healthcare coverage since 1974.

“The Affordable Care Act, while a real advance for the rest of the country, is placing a special burden upon Hawaii, which has already achieved much of what the ACA has set as health goals for the nation,” said Peter Sybinsky, CEO of HHIC. “These burdens—payment reductions, high insurance taxes, additional health benefits—all make it more difficult to maintain the historical commitment to universal coverage that has made Hawaii a leader in health reform.  As a community, we need to work together to respond appropriately to this major challenge.”

New Activities Mark 20th Taste of the Hawaiian Range

While “grazing” at over 60 culinary stations and exhibit booths, attendees at the 20th Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range can get in on some new activities that all promote local and sustainable food production on Hawai‘i Island.

The Taste of the Hawaiian Range is one of my sons favorite events!

The Taste of the Hawaiian Range is one of my sons favorite events!

The anniversary event is 6-8 p.m. Friday, October 9 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village and boasts a stellar lineup of participating chefs from O’ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i Island—plus sampling by local food producers and compelling exhibits presenting topics related to our island agriculture.

Each attending family will receive a complimentary copy of the Taste of the Hawaiian Range 20th Anniversary Cookbooklet, filled with recipes by local chefs and members of the local beef industry. Find out how the Arakis of Kuhio Grille make Miso Pork Pot Roast and what’s the secret for Merriman’s Kahua Ranch Lamb Jook.


Also new in 2015 is a digital scavenger hunt where up to 500 guests can answer questions, take photos and learn more about Big Isle agriculture—using their smart phones —for a chance to win prizes like restaurant gift certificates and local food products.

In addition, attendees will be able to connect with exhibit booths through a QR code image posted at each table. The code will connect smart phone users to online product discounts, coupons and links for educational resources.

“These digital activities will enable attendees to take advantage of discount offers from our participating local food producers for up to a year after the event,” explains Christine Osterwalder, Taste exhibit chair. “Guests will also be able to download digital handouts from our educational exhibitors. Info will be conveniently accessible at the click of a button and celebrates the amazing variety of agricultural products here on the Big Island.”


Anniversary festivities will include honoring the event’s 20-year participants and others who have been long-term Taste supporters.

Culinary headliners for this year’s event include Bravo’s “Top Chef” Fan Favorite Sheldon Simeona of Maui’s Migrant Restaurant; Kevin Hanney of Oahu’s 12th Avenue Grill, the 2015 Hale Aina Best Restaurant of the Year; and the host of TV’s “Family Ingredients,” Ed Kenny of Honolulu’s Town Restaurant.

These celebrity chefs, and 30-some others, will be preparing delectable dishes using pasture-raised beef, lamb, goat, mutton and pork. A variety of beef cuts—from tongue to tail— are utilized so chefs and attendees can get acquainted with not-so-familiar cuts while having fun. The pasture-raised beef is sourced from local, humanely raised cattle that are free of antibiotics and hormones. Enjoy familiar cuts like sirloin tip and ribs, plus tripe and the infamous “rocky mountain oysters” or bull testicles.

The Rocky Mountain Oyster Display

The Rocky Mountain Oyster Display

Hawaii Regional Cuisine founders Roy Yamaguchi and Peter Merriman will lead the pre-gala’s educational offerings, which are open to the public. Using oxtail and beef tenderloin, Chef Yamaguchi of Roy’s instructs the 2015 edition of Cooking Pasture-Raised Beef 101 at 3 p.m. Peter Merriman of Merriman’s Restaurants offers a presentation on purchasing local for the professional kitchen that is geared for college culinary students at 1:30 p.m.

Pre-sale tickets for Taste are $45 and $60 at the door. Entry to Cooking 101 is $10 while the 1:30 p.m. class is free. Tickets are on sale at island-wide locations and online. Tickets locations include Kuhio Grille in Hilo, JJ’s Country Market in Honoka‘a, Kamuela Liquors and Parker Ranch Store in Waimea, Kona Wine Market in Kailua-Kona and Kohala Essence Shop at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Purchase tickets online at www.TasteoftheHawaiianRange.com.

Watch for ticket giveaways on Facebook at Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Twitter #TasteHI.

A free parking and shuttle service to Taste is available from ‘Anaeho‘omalu Bay noon-10 p.m.; follow parking signs on Waikoloa Beach Drive. Guests are encouraged to come early to avoid shuttle lines. For general event information, phone (808) 969-8209.

Anyone who requires an auxiliary aid or service for effective communication or a modification of policies and procedures to participate in this event should contact Russell Nagata at 808-969-8209 no later than September 7.

taste2015bMealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival provides a venue for sustainable agricultural education, encouragement and support of locally produced ag products. The premiere ag-tourism event is a partnership between CTAHR, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, Kulana Foods, UH-Hilo CAFNRM, County of Hawaii Dept. on Environmental Management and community volunteers. Sponsorship also includes the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Hawaii County Research and Development, Hawaii Community College Food Service & Culinary Program, Kamehameha Schools, KTA SuperStores, West Hawaii Today and Pacific Radio Group. The quality and growth of this event are rooted in small business participation, sponsorship and in-kind donations. For more information, visit www.TasteoftheHawaiianRange.com.


Commentary – Medical Cannabis Collective Raided

Michael Ruggles, 58, a medical cannabis patient and activist who operates the Alternative Pain Management Pu`uhonua’s Collective out of his home in Fern Acres, was raided and arrested on Thursday September 10, 2015.

Photo via Big Island Video News

Photo via Big Island Video News

Ruggles’ private medical cannabis collective provides a means for members to dispose of excess medical cannabis via transfer to other members who have also been authorized to use medical cannabis. Ruggles’ collective allows members to comply with the quantity restrictions set forth in Hawai`i’s medical marijuana laws and maintain an uninterrupted supply of safe medical cannabis.

The police served a search warrant and seized all the medical cannabis being cultivated on the property registered to multiple patients and caregivers, in addition to several Collective member’s excess medical cannabis in its various forms.

All business and tax records, members’ files containing protected health information, electronic devices, fine jewelry, professional music recording gear, other property resident firearms, his daughter’s college text book, a greeting card containing a personal message and some food were also confiscated from the collective. No property receipt was left by the police for the seized items.

Ruggles is being charged with 30 violations for allegedly operating an unauthorized dispensary even though the Pu’uhonua is operated as a collective. Bail has been set at $84,500.

The numerous collective medical cannabis patients who relied on the collective as a safe means to obtain their doctor approved medicine are now being forced to turn to the black market or go without.

The raid was based upon an undercover officer who presented a false doctor’s written certification that stated he was in the process of obtaining a medical marijuana card under an alias and was allowed to be processed as a member.

Under HRS 329 Medical Use of Marijuana Laws, conditions of use are defined and specify that patients must have a written certification under a physician to use medical cannibis and does not require the patient to register with the Department of Health and Department of Safety as a condition of use. It was under this premise, that the undercover officer was allowed to acquire medical cannabis according to a collective volunteer and member.

Ruggles’ is currently being held at a Hilo police cell block and his first court appearance is on Monday September 14 at 1pm. Friends who recently visited Ruggles say that he is in high spirits and prepared to defend the rights of medical cannabis patients to safely dispose and acquire medicine within the confines of the law.


State Representative Recovering After Successful Surgery for Skin Cancer

State Representative Clift Tsuji underwent successful Mohs micrographic surgery this month for skin cancer.


State Representative Clift Tsuji (Keaukaha, Hilo, Panaewa, Waiakea)

The specialized procedure’s published cure rates range up to 99% for previously untreated cancers, and was performed on an outpatient basis at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu in August.

“One becomes more aware of the lack of specialized surgeons on the Big Island when such a delicate procedure is necessary,” said Rep. Tsuji. “I truly believe we have amongst the best of health care providers and facilities. Unfortunately, in such procedures as mine, the surgery must be performed by a surgeon in Honolulu.”

Tsuji added, “I am aware that keeping healthy is very important. But also as a public official, I’m committed to serve our community under various conditions. I will continuously strive to do both.”

The prognosis for the Big Island lawmaker is favorable and he is resuming full activity and work schedule.

Macadamia Nuts From the Big Island Being Recalled

Mahina Mele Farms is recalling the following products after FDA testing found Salmonella in macadamia nuts.

Mahina Mele Mac Nuts

Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

To date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with these products. In the interest of public health and safety, we are recalling all products processed from this batch of macadamia nuts.

The following products are involved in the recall. They were distributed to retail stores from May 26-29, 2015 primarily on the East Coast and in Hawaii.

Izzie Macs! Macadamia Nuts 689076792677 016 6oz (salted)
Izzie Macs! Macadamia Nuts 689076793575 016 6oz (unsalted)
Izzie Macs! Macadamia Nuts 689076792776 016 16oz (unsalted)
Izzie Macs! Macadamia Nuts 689076792974 016 16oz (salted)
Bulk Macadamia nuts (salted and unsalted; wholes and pieces) 016 5lb bag
Baby Bruddah’s Mac Nut Buttah 753182242019 016 12oz
Baby Bruddah’s Chocolate Mac Nut Buttah 735182242040 016 12oz

Customers who have purchased the above products should not consume them and should return them to the store where they were purchased for a full refund or replacement. Mahina Mele Farm will reimburse the wholesaler for any returned product.

These products were shipped May 26-29th, 2015 and are from LOT #016.

If you have any questions, call Jason or Kollette Stith at 808 328 8987.

This recall is being made with the knowledge of the Food and Drug Administration.

Statement of Support on Senator Harimoto

State Senator Breene Harimoto, 61, (16th Senatorial District – Pearl City, Momilani, Pearlridge, Aiea, Royal Summit, Aiea Heights, Newtown, Waimalu, Halawa, Pearl Harbor) has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

Senator Breene Harimoto

Senator Breene Harimoto

Under the advice and care of his physicians, Senator Harimoto will soon be undergoing treatment. 

“Senator Harimoto is a valued member of our Senate body and a friend to all of us here at the Legislature.  Our thoughts are with Senator Harimoto and his family, and we wish him a speedy recovery” said Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi.

Senator Harimoto has expressed his appreciation for the outpouring of Aloha, and asks for privacy and prayers for himself as well as for his family in the coming weeks. 

Hemp Harvested Legally in Hawaii for First Time

The first stalk of legal hemp in Hawaii was harvested today.
Hemp in HawaiiHawaii Representative Chris Lee tweeted, “Harvesting the very first stalk of hemp in Hawaii. Uses less water, 100% organic, tremendous economic commodity

This Weekend – BISAC Summer Jam 2015

The Big Island Substance Abuse Council is inviting the public to come out to celebrate the fun-filled days of summer at its Summer Jam 2015 on Saturday July 25, 2015 at Waiākea High School from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

This year’s entertainment line up features New Zealand pop sensation Pieter T and Hawaiʻi’s own Nesian N.I.N.E.

Pieter T

Pieter T

Pieter T has been steadily climbing up the New Zealand radio charts since his days with the musical group, Boyband. In 2009 Pieter T debuted as a solo artist with the single “Cold Nights” followed by the singles, “Stay With Me”, “Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Something Else”, which peaked at number six on the NZ Radio Charts. His latest release is the single “Business” featuring PNC and Dei Hamo off his debut album “Life”.

Nesian N.I.N.E. (Natives Inna New Era)

Nesian N.I.N.E. (Natives Inna New Era)

Island Reggae Music group Nesian N.I.N.E. (Natives Inna New Era) hit the charts in 2009 with their Hōkū-nominated album “Press Play,” and has been going strong ever since, appearing with BoyZ II Men, Klymaxx, El Debarge and others.

Other featured artists in the line up include, 2014 Brown Bags to Stardom winners One Rhythm 808, Beyond Paradise, and Kolea.

“It’s really very exciting to once again have so many talented artists coming to play at the Summer Jam,” said BISAC CEO Dr. Hannah Preston-Pita.

This year’s event will also feature a National Qualifier Strongman Competition, ‘ono food and keiki crafts and activities including the Zoo Choo, Bouncy Houses, Human Hamster Ball, Laser Tag, Bungee Run and a Sticky Wall. Keiki ride wristbands purchased online are 50% off. Entry is a $2 suggested donation.

All funds raised above the cost of producing the event go towards BISAC’s adult and school-based Poʻokela Vocational program, Mom and Babies program, and Keiki School Based Services.

For more information about BISAC’s Summer Jam go to www.summerjamhawaii.com.


West Hawaii Community Health Center Opens Newest Location

The doors of the new West Hawaii Community Health Center – Kealakehe opened for patients on Monday, July 13, 2015. The 10,500-square-foot custom-built facility is located just south of Kealakehe High School at 74-5214 Keanalehu Drive.
West Hawaii Community Health Center

West Hawaii Community Health Center built the new Kealakehe facility in response to community needs and provides excellent patient care, minimizes critical wait time for appointments, enhances coordination and referral for specialty care, and promotes programs aimed at improving health outcomes. The opening of the Kealakehe facility marks the fifth location for West Hawaii Community Health Center.

“With ten years of service behind us, West Hawaii Community Health Center – Kealakehe adds to our capacity to meet the demand for health care in Kailua-Kona,” stated Richard Taaffe, West Hawaii Community Health Center CEO. “Our experienced and highly qualified team members are ready and excited to welcome new patients.”

West Hawaii Community Health Center – Kealakehe is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm., and offers primary health care for patients of all ages, provided by a Family Physician, a Physician Assistant, two Board Certified Pediatric Dentists and one general Dentist.

West Hawaii Community Health Center – Kealakehe accepts most private insurances, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, and uninsured patients are offered a sliding fee scale. Staff assistance is available to help patients enroll in health insurance plans.

West Hawaii Community Health Center Kealakehe is planning for its Grand Opening community celebration on Saturday, August 15, 2015.

For more information, call: (808) 355-5600 (medical) or (808) 355-5650 (dental) or visit: www.westhawaiichc.org

UH Hilo Wins National Health Occupations Students of America Competition

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo turned in a championship performance at the 2015 HOSA National Leadership Conference held recently in Anaheim, California.

UH Hilo MonikerUH Hilo sent two Public Service Announcement (PSA) teams to the conference who were tasked with developing a 30-second PSA on Concussion: Prevention and Recognition followed by a four-minute oral presentation that provides a synopsis of the PSA, explains the creative process of the project, and how it may affect the target audience.

Team B: Chapter President Lark Jason Canico, Shane Naeole, and Taumata Tue Vaea (serving as an alternate from UH Manoa) took 1st place. Team A: Ridge Cabaccang, Kelly Gani, and Sheldon Cabudol earned Top 10 honors.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy and still in denial that we captured Gold facing such tough competition that included fellow UH Hilo members and other Texas Technical Institutes,” Canico said. “To finish first after coming in second last year makes it extra special.”

This year’s conference was the largest ever with over 8,550 members in attendance. Hawai’i brought a total of 223 members, ranked second in the nation for most medals won in every competitive event, and won the Most Enthusiastic state award.

“A trip to Anaheim usually includes a visit to Disneyland,” said faculty advisor Dr. Cecilia Mukai. “But I was more than happy to trade that visit for the chance to see both our teams finish in the Top Ten, with one capturing Gold.”

Established in 1976 as Health Occupations Students of America, HOSA-Future Health Professionals is now an international organization with the addition of Puerto Rico, Italy, Canada and Mexico, who competed at this year’s leadership conference. The organization totals more than 175,000 members and 2.4 million alumni.

HOSA was established in Hawai’i in 2005 and has grown to more than 1,300 members. UH Hilo’s membership is open to all majors/grade levels and Hawai’i Community College students.

For more information, email hosa.uhhilo@gmail.com.

New Law Helps Children Born With Facial Abnormalities

The measure signed into law today by Governor Ige dramatically impacts the lives of several dozen Hawaii families that include children born with cleft palates or other facial abnormalities.

Anya Maga with Governor Ige and Reps. Gregg Takayama (bill introducer), Della Au Belatti, and Henry Aquino.

Anya Maga with Governor Ige and Reps. Gregg Takayama (bill introducer), Della Au Belatti, and Henry Aquino.

In Hawaii, approximately one in every 500 babies is born with what is called an “orofacial anomaly.”  For example, between 2007 and 2012, 61 babies were born with a cleft lip or palate and 83 were born with other craniofacial defects at the Kapiolani Medical Center.

Rep. Della Au Belatti, House Health Committee Chair, said it’s crucial to correct these defects, not just for visual appearance, but because this condition affects basic functions such as eating, chewing, speech and breathing.  The complicated treatment to correct these kinds of birth defects usually requires multiple surgeries ranging from about $5,700 to $20,000 or more.

House Bill 174, introduced by Rep. Gregg Takayama (D-Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades), requires health insurers to cover such orthodontic treatment, as do 16 other states.

“For families whose children have a cleft lip and palate, the range of medical, dental and other services can exceed $100,000 from birth until late adolescence,” testified Eileen Matsumoto, a registered nurse for more than 35 years.

The cost of reconstructive surgery is covered by medical insurance but not the full cost of the medically necessary orthodontic procedures required to prepare for these surgeries, which usually amount to more than $10,000 over a child’s lifetime.

These treatment costs are already fully covered by Med-QUEST for poor families but not by private health insurers for Hawaii’s working families.

The State Legislative Auditor reports the cost to all policyholders would be minimal – probably increasing premiums by two cents to four cents per member per month, based on the experiences of California and Massachusetts.

The measure has been called “Anya’s Law” after one of its active supporters, 6-year-old Anya Maga, who testified for the measure along with her parents, who are residents of East Honolulu.

Hawaii Cannabis Business Expo and Kou Calabash Challenge

The state of Hawaii’s first and only medical cannabis magazine – Kaulana Na Pua, is pleased to announce that the Hawaii Convention Center will serve as the site for the inaugural Hawaii Cannabis Business Expo and Kou Calabash Challenge on July 17, 18, and 19, 2015.

See more here:

Hawaiian Cannabis Expo

Click to enlarge

Navy Teams with State of Hawaii to Combat Mosquitoes

The Navy in Hawaii is partnering with the State of Hawaii’s Department of Health (HDOH) in surveillance and prevention of mosquito-borne diseases.
Mosquito Bite
During an interview on local TV June 11, entomologists Lt. Ryan Larson, of Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit (NEPMU) 6, and Dr. Jeomhee Hasty, of HDOH, showed specimens of mosquitoes and explained the importance of working together to prevent the spread of diseases.

The partnership with HDOH was strengthened when the Navy began to recognize the spread of mosquito-transmitted diseases throughout the Pacific last summer.

“Fences don’t stop mosquitos,” Larson told KHON2’s Wake Up 2day audience. “We realized we need to be prepared to respond in case this disease arrived in Hawaii.”

There have been cases of mosquito-borne diseases chikungunya and dengue fever in recent years, according to the HDOH.

“Travelers infected overseas can bring the disease back home where local mosquitos can ‘bite’…and start local transmission of the disease in Hawaii,” said Hasty.

Mosquito surveillance conducted by HDOH since 2010 at Honolulu International Airport supports Hasty’s concern. The mosquito species Aedes aegypti was detected near the airport several times since 2012. This group is more efficient at spreading dengue fever, said Hasty.

The HDOH Navy partnership allows combatting invasive species to move beyond the airport to cover more of the state.

Ryan demonstrated how two different traps are being used in the joint effort. A light trap sucks nocturnal mosquitos in after attracting them with visual cues and carbon dioxide, which mimics human respiration.

He also showed a sentinel trap, which is used for catching day-feeding mosquitos like the ones that carry dengue and chikungunya. Baited with a chemical lure that smells like “the worst pair of smelly socks you can imagine,” this device targets ankle-biting mosquitos, said Ryan.

As for residents of Hawaii, Hasty says using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants can help prevent exposure to harmful mosquito bites. She also recommends eliminating standing water on and around one’s property, which reduces mosquito reproduction.

USNS Mercy and USNS Millinocket To Depart Hawaii for Pacific Partnership Deployment

USNS Mercy 131

Sailors “Man The Rails” as USNS Mercy comes into Pearl Harbor.

The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and the Joint High Speed Vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) are scheduled to depart May 27 for a four-month deployment in support of the Navy’s Pacific Partnership 2015.

The tenth iteration of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s annual Pacific Partnership mission will take place in the Southeast Asia and Oceania regions over a four-month period beginning in late May.

Host nations will include Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Vietnam.

Getting flown out to the USNS Mercy

Getting flown out to the USNS Mercy

Working at the invitation of each host nation, U.S. Naval forces will be joined by U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force personnel as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and regional partners including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Canada, Timor Leste, Fiji and France to improve maritime security, conduct humanitarian assistance, and strengthen disaster response preparedness.

Isolation chambers inside the USNS Mercy

Isolation chambers inside the USNS Mercy

Born out of the devastation wrought by the 2004 tsunami that swept through parts of Southeast Asia, Pacific Partnership began as a military-led humanitarian response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters.  Building on the success and goodwill of this operation, the hospital ship USNS Mercy returned to the region in 2006 for the inaugural Pacific Partnership mission.  The mission staff expanded to include partner nation militaries and NGOs working to increase the disaster relief capabilities of Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor.  Since then, Pacific Partnership has grown in scope and size.

U.S. Navy Capt. Christopher Engdahl, commander of Destroyer Squadron 9, based in Everett, Washington, will lead this year’s mission from Mercy.  USNS Millinocket will be deploying on the Pacific Partnership mission for the first time, with embarked elements of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment.

Partner nation militaries and government agencies, NGOs and host nation planning efforts have focused on collaborative efforts with professionals in the fields of medicine, dentistry, veterinary, public health services, engineering and disaster response.

For more information on Pacific Partnership, visit the official Pacific Partnership website at:

Hawaii Ranks Fourth for Senior Health According to Annual America’s Health Rankings Senior Report

Hawaii ranked fourth for senior health this year, according to the third edition of United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities.

2015 Senior Report

Nationwide, the report shows positive trends for senior health, especially for those measures that look at whether seniors are getting the right care in a setting of their choice. Seniors are experiencing lower hospital readmission rates and preventable hospitalization rates compared to last year, while hospice care use and the number of home healthcare workers have increased.

“United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report is a vital tool for understanding where we, as a state, are making strides in senior health and where key challenges for Hawaii’s seniors remain,” said Ron Fujimoto, D.O., chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare’s Community Plan for Hawaii. “With America’s senior population poised to double by 2050, we must continue to invest in programs and solutions that address our seniors’ health needs and help them live the best lives they possibly can.”

Hawaii’s Overall Health

The America’s Health Rankings Senior Report finds that Hawaii has its share of strengths and challenges.

Hawaii’s Strengths

  • Low prevalence of obesity
  • Low geriatrician shortfall
  • Low hip fracture rate

Hawaii’s Challenges

  • High prevalence of underweight seniors
  • High prevalence of activity-limiting arthritis pain
  • High percentage of hospital deaths

50-State Snapshot: Vermont is the Healthiest State for Seniors

According to the report, Vermont is the healthiest state for seniors, rising from fourth place last year. New Hampshire ranks second, improving one spot from last year. Minnesota fell to third after being ranked first for two years in a row, while Hawaii (4) and Utah (5) round out the top five states. Louisiana ranks 50th as the least healthy state for older adults, followed by Mississippi (49), Kentucky (48), Arkansas (47) and Oklahoma (46).

To see the Rankings in full, visit: www.americashealthrankings.org/senior

The report shows that seniors are improving in key care trends, particularly in metrics that examine whether seniors are getting the right care in the setting of their choice, pointing to a health system that may be working better for seniors.

Key findings include:

  • Preventable hospitalizations dropped 8.6 percent, from 64.9 percent of discharges for Medicare beneficiaries last year to 59.3 percent of discharges in 2015. The decrease marks an 11 percent decline in preventable hospitalizations since the 2013 edition.
  • More seniors are spending their last days in the setting they prefer. Hospice care – which can be delivered in a home setting – increased from 47.5 percent to 50.6 percent of decedents aged 65 and older, while hospital deaths decreased from 25 percent to 22.8 percent of decedents. Hospice care rose 38 percent since the report’s inception in 2013.
  • The number of home healthcare workers increased 9.3 percent compared to last year, which may indicate that home care is an increasingly accessible option for today’s seniors.
  • More seniors received the flu vaccine compared to last year, rising from 60.1 percent of seniors in 2014 to 62.8 percent this year. Seniors are particularly susceptible to flu and flu-related complications, making it vital that they receive the vaccine each year.
  • Seniors are reporting feeling better. The findings showed a 4.8 percent increase in self-reported high health status to 41.8 percent this year, contributing to a 9 percent increase over the past two years.

“It is heartening to see seniors’ health is improving, but our societal challenge remains finding ways to encourage more seniors to be more active,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health Foundation, and chief medical officer and executive vice president, UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “Strong community support is an essential part of promoting positive health among seniors. We must work together – across states, communities and our own families – to encourage all seniors to find ways to be as active as they’re able to be.”

After showing promising improvements in last year’s edition, physical inactivity rates increased in 2015; one-third of seniors (33.1 percent) did not get any physical activity or exercise outside of work, marking a 15.3 percent increase from the previous year (28.7 percent). Other worrisome trends for senior health include:

  • 37.6 percent of seniors have four or more chronic conditions;
  • 26.7 percent of seniors are obese;
  • 8.7 percent of seniors smoke; and
  • 16.1 percent of seniors have had all of their teeth removed due to tooth decay or gum disease.

In addition, despite promising gains in end-of-life care metrics, community support spending per capita for seniors – support that helps older adults stay in their homes – has declined by 23.9 percent in the past two years.

“Progress in key metrics such as preventable hospitalizations and hospice care show that more seniors are aging comfortably and receiving preferred types of support – a trend that not only benefits our healthcare system but helps ensure seniors’ well-being at each step of the aging process,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “We are excited to be making progress toward strong, personalized care for all seniors and look forward to seeing continued momentum in this area.”

To see the state Rankings in full, visit: www.americashealthrankings.org/senior

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Final Reading – Dispensaries in Hawaii Next Step

On the last day of the 2015 regular session, the House passed on final reading HB321, CD1, which creates a statewide distribution system for medical marijuana and establishes the parameters for individuals and entities to apply to set up the dispensaries. Medical Marijuana

“There are an estimated 13,000 qualifying patients throughout the state who are desperately looking to find a safe, reliable and convenient access to medical marijuana.  This bill is a reasonable and compassionate response to the needs of our citizens,” said Rep. Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully Pawaa, Manoa), who co-introduced the bill along with House Speaker Joseph M. Souki (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu).  Both are long-time supporters of medical marijuana dispensaries.

“While the Legislature made legal the medical use of marijuana on June 14, 2000, the law has remained silent for 15 years on how patients can obtain medical marijuana if they or their caregivers are unable to grow their own supply,” Souki added.  “There has been a desperate need for a safe and reliable dispensary system statewide for medical marijuana for a long time.  This bill finally answers that need.”

The measure follows closely the recommendations of the Task Force commissioned by the Legislature in 2013 to study the implementation of medical marijuana dispensaries.  It also provides for opportunities to improve the system and correct any shortcomings on a go-forward basis.

The bill, which also passed the Senate, now goes to the Governor for his signature, veto or passage without his signature.


  • Allows for eight (8) dispensary licensees in the state: three (3) on Oahu, two (2) on Big Island and two (2) on Maui County; one (1) on Kauai;
  • Each licensee may own, operate or subcontract up to two production centers and up to two retail dispensing locations; prohibits dispensary from being located in same place as production center;
  • Requires the Department of Health to engage in public education and training regarding medical marijuana;
  • Requires the Department of Health to adopt interim rules by Jan. 4, 2016, for the establishment and management of the medical marijuana dispensary system;
  • Tasks the Department of Health with accepting applications for dispensary licenses from Jan. 12, 2016, to Jan. 29, 2016, and announcing licensees by April 15, 2016;
  • Tasks the Department of Health to select licensees based on minimum requirements and merit based factors including: the capacity to meet the needs of patients; ability to comply with criminal background checks, inventory controls, and security requirements; ability to operate a business; and financial stability and access to financial resources;
  • Allows the Department of Health to license additional operators after Oct. 1, 2017, based on qualifying patient need;
  • Dispensaries must comply with all zoning regulations and will not be permitted within 750 ft. of a playground, public housing or school;
  • Licensees may begin dispensing marijuana and manufactured marijuana products on July 15, 2016, with the approval of the Department of Health;
  • Licensed applicants must pay (a) $5,000 non-refundable application fee, (b) an additional $75,000 fee for each license approved, and (c) a $50,000 annual renewal fee;
  • Establishes the criteria for license applications to require that an individual applicant: be a legal resident of the State for not less than five years, be over the age of 21, and have no felony convictions;
  • Establishes the minimum criteria for license applications to require that an entity applicant: be organized under the laws of the state and have a Hawaii tax ID number, have a 51 percent or greater Hawaii based ownership stake, have at least $1,000,000 under its control for each license applied for with an additional $100,000 available for each retail dispensing location;
  • Imposes regular general excise taxes onto the sale of marijuana and manufactured products within the dispensary system and does not include any additional taxes;
  • Allows qualifying patients to obtain medical marijuana from primary caregivers who cultivate or by personally cultivating marijuana until Dec. 31, 2018;
  • Allows a primary caregiver or legal guardian to cultivate marijuana after Dec. 31, 2018, if qualifying patient is a minor or adult lacking legal capacity or who is located on any island with no dispensary;
  • Expands the definition of “debilitating medical condition” for the purpose of authorizing use to include post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Expands the Department of Health’s authority to conduct criminal background checks;
  • Requires dispensaries to allow announced and unlimited unannounced inspections and to conduct annual financial audits; and
  • Requires the Department of Health to file annual report to Governor and Legislature on dispensaries.

Additional details of the measure can be found in the bill text and the committee report at the links below:

Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill Passes Conference Committee

Senate and House conferees today reached a compromise on the bill that would establish a medical marijuana dispensary system in the islands.

Medical Marijuana

“This is a measure that many stakeholders have been working on for a very long time. It’s taken much discussion, collaboration and compromise to get where we are today and we believe this is a good measure that will get the medical marijuana dispensary system up and rolling,” said Senator Will Espero (D-19 ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages), chair of the Senate conference committee. “We are now on the verge of having a safe, secure product for our patients who need this, particularly the children who will benefit tremendously from medical cannabis.”

HB321, CD1 would allow applications for licenses to be available in the State of Hawai‘i starting January 4, 2016, with medical marijuana dispensaries being allowed to begin operations no sooner than July 15, 2016. A $5,000 non-refundable fee would be required to apply for a license.  An approved dispensary would pay a fee of $75,000 for a license, with a $50,000 annual renewal fee.  A total of eight dispensary licenses will be distributed throughout the state: three on Oahu, two on Maui, two on Hawai‘i Island, and one on Kaua‘i. Dispensary licenses will be selected on a merit basis and distributed through the State Department of Health (DOH).

The measure requires all dispensary licensees and employees to be subject to a criminal and background check. It restricts medical marijuana dispensaries within 750 feet of a playground, public housing complex or school. It also authorizes licensed dispensaries to be subject to annual unannounced inspections of its operations by the DOH.

The measure will be voted on by the full House and Senate on Thursday, May 7. If the bill passes both houses, it will be forwarded to the Governor for his signature, veto, or passage without his signature.

Hawaii First State in Nation to Raise Age to Purchase Tobacco Products to 21

The Hawaii State Senate this morning passed a bill that would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

No Sale Cigarettes

The bill, SB 1030, is being sent to Governor David Ige for his signature. This would make Hawaii the first state in the nation to prohibit the sale of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes to individuals under the age of 21. The House had previously passed the measure.

The law, geared toward preventing the initiation of tobacco use among youths, will take effect on January 1, 2016.

“Today’s passage of SB 1030 marks a significant achievement in public health,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. “Hawaii is poised to become the first state in the nation to raise the minimum age. I am pleased that the State has included e-cigarettes as part of the new law. With the explosion of e-cigarette use among teens, more and more of our kids are developing an unhealthy addiction to nicotine. This law is an important step in helping to make our next generation tobacco free.”

A 2014 statewide poll of Hawaii residents by SMS Research for CTFH found that statewide, 77 percent of Hawaii voters support raising the age of sale for tobacco products to 21.

“Our state legislators clearly recognized the public health and safety impacts that SB 1030 would provide and passed this historic measure,” Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii (CTFH). “As the first state in the nation to raise the minimum age of access to tobacco products to 21, Hawaii leads in trying to cut the vicious addiction to smoking among our youth. Our state’s passage of this landmark bill provides an incredible boost to other states considering similar legislation.”

According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. A 2015 scientific report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that youth are more vulnerable to addiction as their brains are still developing.

The IOM report concluded that raising the minimum legal age nationally to purchase tobacco products would add 4.2 million years of life to the next generation of American adults. IOM predicted that smoking prevalence would fall from 17.8 percent to an estimated 12 percent with the minimum age set at 21.

“I know first-hand the negative impacts smoking has had on my generation,” said Sabrina Olaes, CTFH volunteer and senior at Kapolei High School. “I have watched former classmates skip class to smoke e-cigarettes in bathrooms and end up being held back for missing so much class time. Passage of SB 1030 means we are one step closer to creating a better and healthier future for Hawaii’s youth.”

In Hawaii, tobacco use or exposure claims 1,400 lives and costs $526 million health care bills annually.

North Hawaii Students Learn Bike Safety from PATH and NHCH

Over the past three months, staff from North Hawaii Community Hospital’s (NHCH) Trauma Program have partnered with Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii (PATH) to provide free bicycle training and safety education to more than 250 fourth grade students at Kohala Elementary School, Honokaa Elementary School, Kanu o ka ‘Aina New Century Public Charter School and Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School.

Path kids

“Partnering with PATH offered an ideal opportunity to provide injury prevention and safety education to North Hawaii students,” says Kimberly Bastien, RN and NHCH Trauma Program Manager. “While PATH taught students proper riding techniques and skills through their Bike Ed program, we provided bicycle safety education and emphasized the importance of wearing a helmet.” Each participating student was properly fitted with a free multi-sport safety helmet, provided by the hospital’s Trauma Team. “Students were thrilled once they learned the brand new helmet was theirs to keep. It made bike education more interesting and fun for them.”

Tina Clothier, Executive Director with PATH added, “We are delighted to partner with North Hawaii Community Hospital’s Trauma Program in our mutual quest to keep North Kohala youth safe while they explore the joys of bike riding. The participants are excited about receiving their own brand new helmets and wear them with pride. Having the NHCH Trauma Program as our partner had raised the bar for our ever popular Bike Ed classes.”

PATH is a non-profit bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization dedicated to safely connecting the people and places on Hawaii Island with pathways and bikeways. PATH’s Bike Ed program is a bicycle skills program offered to all Big Island schools and youth clubs. During this three-day bicycle program, students learn important bicycle and safety skills, including: the fundamentals of traffic and road safety, hand signals, proper bicycle clothing, as well as how to navigate an intersection, to yield and to ride in control with others.

“Today, children are riding bicycles, scooters, skate boards and other ride-on vehicles,” said Bastien. “Wearing a helmet is crucial to injury prevention and results in fewer injuries in our emergency room.   Not only do helmets reduce the risk of bicycle-related head injury by 80 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but Hawaii State law requires kids younger than 16 years of age wear a helmet. We understand many families may not have the means to purchase a helmet; that’s why we’re doing our part to help keep our keiki safe.”

NHCH’s Trauma Team will offer free helmets to children ages 3 to 12 at the 16th Annual Waimea Healthy Keiki Fest on Saturday, April 18th from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Parker Ranch Center in Waimea. NHCH was designated as a Level III Trauma Center in 2013, which allows the hospital to treat injured patients that would otherwise be diverted to trauma centers located over an hour away. The mission of NHCH’s Trauma Program is to continually improve and optimize the care provided for injured patients through an evolving multidisciplinary performance improvement committee, data collection, injury prevention, community outreach and education. For additional information about the hospital’s Trauma Program, please contact Kimberly Bastien, RN and Trauma Program Manager, at 808-881-4820 or Kimberly.Bastien@NHCH.com.