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Hawaii County Department of Environmental Management Understaffed and Overworked – Appliances Stack Up

The recent Dengue Fever outbreak on the Big Island of Hawaii has had everyone on edge the last few months and both State and County officials have had their hands full dealing with this outbreak.  Thousands and thousands of tires have been disposed of since the county started accepting tires at the transfer stations.

Folks have been noticing that the Hilo Transfer station in general has had a lot of e-waste and appliances stacking up.

Appliances at the Hilo Landfill on 4/30/2016.

Appliances at the Hilo Landfill on 4/30/2016.

Recently Doug Arnott, from Arnott’s Lodge in Hilo, asked the following question in the Facebook Group Opala in Paradise to Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd, Head of the County of Hawaii’s Department of Environmental Management:

Bobby Jean Leithead Todd can you give us an update on the ever growing pile of refrigerators and stoves at the Hilo Station…it seems that a good economy is causing old units to be dumped faster than they can be removed….or is this related to refrigerant removal or a slowdown in scrap metal buying by China…can we get an update please

Leithead-Todd responded:

We’ve had to pull manpower and equipment away to deal with tires and other dengue related clean ups. Earlier we had it pile up as we had a contract dispute and we could not move them until the contract issue was resolved at the state level. Now we are moving the white goods out but they seem to be coming back in as fast as we dispose of them. We hope to get ahead of it after we stop accepting tires.

Hawaii Lawmakers Provide $100 Million for Cooling Schools and Energy Efficiency

House and Senate conferees today provided $100 million to the Department of Education to install air conditioning and heat abatement equipment to cool 1,000 public school classrooms throughout the state and to establish a sustainable schools initiative.

Capital

In his State of the State address, Governor David Ige proposed borrowing $100 million from the state’s Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) program to cool 1,000 public school classrooms.  In response, lawmakers drafted House Bill 2569 and Senate Bill 3126, proposing varying methods of funding, but in essence, working toward the same end.  Both bills were sent to conference with unspecified funding for the conferees to decide.

During negotiations, the conferees agreed to $100 million in general funding to immediately begin carrying out the work of installing cooling and energy efficiency upgrades.  The measure now goes to the full House and Senate on Tuesday, May 3, for approval.

“The faster we can reduce our electric costs, the more money we can put back into helping students and teachers.  If the DOE can make progress reducing electric costs even a couple percent per year, that could still save millions over the long term that could be better spent in our classrooms, rather than going to utility bills,” said Rep. Chris Lee, Conference Committee chair, who took the lead for the House on the pair of bills.

Hawaii Department of Health Announces the Selection of Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licensees

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has selected eight applicants to receive Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licenses. The Department will award three licenses for the City and County of Honolulu, two licenses each for the Counties of Hawaii and Maui, and one dispensary license for the County of Kauai as allowed in Chapter 329D, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS).

Medical Marijuana

While the announcement of the selected applicants is being made today, selected applicants are required to pay a licensing fee of $75,000 to the Department of Health within seven days of receiving their written notice of selection to be awarded a dispensary license. If the application fee is not timely paid by close of business on the seventh day, the selected applicant will be disqualified, and the Department shall select the next highest scoring applicant for the county, pursuant to section 329D-4(c) HRS, and section 11-850-21(b), HAR.

The applicants that have been selected for dispensary licenses are:

City and County of Honolulu

  • Aloha Green Holdings Inc.
  • Manoa Botanicals LLC
  • TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu

County of Hawaii

  • Hawaiian Ethos LLC
  • Lau Ola LLC

County of Maui

  • Maui Wellness Group, LLC
  • Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC

County of Kauai

  • Green Aloha, Ltd.

“Upon the completion of the selection process and the awarding of licenses, the Department of Health will begin working with the selected licensees to ensure the safety of their products, and the safety of patients and the public,” said State Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “We look forward to improving access to marijuana for registered patients who have medical needs, and increasing educational opportunities for healthcare professionals.”

After receiving more than 60 applications in January, the department conducted a rigorous review and selection process. A four-member selection panel reviewed and scored applications based on thirteen merit criteria, some of which include the ability to operate a business, a plan and timeline for operations, proof of financial stability, ability to comply with security requirements, and capacity to meet patient needs.

A dispensary licensed pursuant to Chapter 329D, HRS, may begin dispensing marijuana no sooner than July 15, 2016, with the approval of the Department of Health. Each dispensary licensee may operate up to two production centers and two retail dispensing locations within the county they are licensed to serve. Margaret Leong, Supervisor for the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licensing Program, explained that, “There are many steps the dispensaries will need to take in order to actually start production and dispensing, so we can’t say exactly when the dispensing will begin. But we are excited to start working with the selected licensees on the next steps.”

Pursuant to section 11-850-20, Hawaii Administrative Rules, the Department is holding unselected applications in reserve to offer a license to the next highest scoring applicant if the selected applicants fail to timely pay the required licensing fee. When all available licenses have been issued, the unselected applications will be removed from the list of reserved applications and the Department will notify all applicants of their status, at which time they will have an opportunity to appeal the denial.

The department will post a list of the total scores received by applicants upon completion of the awarding of licenses, which is anticipated to be completed within the next two weeks. The scores will be posted at http://health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuana/.

More information about both the medical marijuana dispensary program and the registry program are located at the website.

Milestone Reached in Hawai‘i Island Dengue Fever Outbreak

With no reports of recent incidences of locally acquired dengue fever in 30 days, the state and County of Hawai‘i announced a significant milestone in the Hawai‘i Island outbreak that began in October. While the outbreak seems to have come to a halt, Gov. David Ige, along with other state and local officials caution the public not to let their guard down in the fight against mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit.

Mosquito Bite

The state and Hawai‘i County are standing down certain emergency response activities related to the dengue fever outbreak after 30 days of no new locally acquired cases. This decision rests on the fact that three periods of the maximum human incubation period of ten days have passed. The final day of the infectious period for the last reported case was March 27. However, as per routine operations, the Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) continues to immediately investigate all travel related cases and conduct mosquito assessments and/or treatment of potential areas of mosquito exposure.

“This milestone could not have been reached without the diligent efforts and teamwork by the Department of Health and the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency,” said Gov. Ige. “While this outbreak seems to be ending, our statewide response to mosquito-borne diseases must continue. We must remain vigilant in our mosquito prevention and abatement practices, be ready to respond to the Zika virus, and continue working together as a state to ‘Fight the Bite.’”

Since Oct. 28, 2015, DOH and the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency (HCCDA) have been actively investigating and responding to locally-acquired cases of dengue fever on Hawai‘i Island. Dengue is not endemic to Hawai‘i, but it is intermittently imported from endemic areas by infected travelers. As of April 27, 2016, 264 cases of locally-acquired dengue fever have been confirmed on Hawai‘i  Island with illnesses occurring as early as Sept. 11, 2015.

“By no means are we out of the clear,” said Darryl Oliveira, administrator of the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency. “Cooperation and collaboration between the state and county have been exemplary but we continue to identify actions and efforts that we can improve on in the future. We appreciate the tremendous initiative shown by the community in assisting with mosquito abatement and encourage everyone to continue taking proactive measures around their homes and neighborhoods to keep our state safe.”

Over the course of the outbreak, DOH’s Vector Control team surveyed a total of 523 private properties and 310 public spaces. Of that count, 220 private properties and 65 public spaces were sprayed and/or treated for mosquitoes. A total of more than 1,900 reported potential cases were evaluated and/or tested by DOH disease investigators and State Laboratories Division staff.

Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler added, “The fight against mosquitoes is far from over and we must do everything in our power to protect ourselves and our communities from the risk of mosquito borne diseases. We continue to receive and investigate reports of travel-related suspect cases of dengue fever, Zika virus and chikungunya on all islands. As Zika continues to spread rapidly overseas, we must take precautionary measures to prevent any locally acquired cases from taking hold in our state.”

“Knowing the dengue fever outbreak has been halted is welcome news for Hawaii’s tourism industry, especially for the travel partners, employees and residents who rely on its continued success,” said George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. “Travelers considering a visit to the Hawaiian Islands in the coming months can make their plans with confidence and without the hesitation that dengue may have been causing them.”

On April 11, Gov. Ige signed a supplemental proclamation to extend the state’s emergency period for mosquito borne illnesses. Under the extended emergency proclamation, DOH and the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), with input from county partners, will continue ongoing efforts to develop a comprehensive response plan detailing appropriate actions and measures dependent on the state’s current risk associated with mosquito borne diseases. A statewide public awareness and education campaign will kick off this year to ensure people understand the risks of mosquito-borne diseases and how to best prevent these illnesses in Hawai‘i.

Pregnant women need to take special precautions against the Zika virus and should avoid travel to areas where Zika is actively circulating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that Zika can cause microcephaly in newborns, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared with other babies of the same sex and age. CDC has also confirmed that Zika can be spread from an infected man to his sexual partners. It is still unknown how long the virus can be spread in this way after the infected male’s symptoms have cleared.

For additional information about Zika virus and precautions, visit DOH’s Disease Outbreak Control Division’s website at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/dib/disease/zika_virus/. For travel information and advisories, visit CDC’s website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information.

Update on Response Activities for Big Island Dengue Fever Outbreak – Health Department Daily Web Site Updates End

The State Health Department is no longer updating their website as of 4/26/2016

The State Health Department is no longer updating their website as of 4/26/2016

What: The State and County will announce the status of the Hawai‘i Island dengue fever outbreak and a new phase of response activities

Who:             

  • Governor David Ige
  • Mayor Billy Kenoi, County of Hawai‘i
  • Darryl Oliveira, Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Administrator
  • Dr. Virginia Pressler, Director of Health
  • Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan, State Adjutant General and Director of the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency
  • George Szigeti, Hawai‘i Tourism Authority President & CEO

When: Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. 

Where: State Capitol, 5th floor, Governor’s Ceremonial Room

We plan to live stream the event through the governor’s website.

End of Dengue

EPA Cites Honolulu Wood Treating for Producing and Selling Mislabeled Pesticide

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Honolulu Wood Treating of Kapolei, Oahu, which will pay a $33,750 penalty for producing and selling a mislabeled pesticide on five occasions in 2013 and 2014 under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

Honolulu Wood TreatmentThe Hawaii Department of Agriculture conducted inspections for EPA at the company’s facility in 2014 and 2015 and referred this case to EPA for follow-up enforcement. During the inspections, the Department found that Clear-Bor F.T., a product used to protect wood from termites and wood decay fungus, did not meet federal label requirements. Specifically, the first aid information and EPA Establishment number were incorrect. The company has since fully corrected the product label.

“Mislabeled pesticides put people at risk,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Every company must ensure its products are properly labeled to protect the health and safety of those who use them.”

EPA requires companies to revise the first aid statements on their pesticide product labels to include medically up-to-date language. The instructions on the non-compliant containers of Clear-Bor F.T. would  have likely interfered with proper medical treatment, as the label instructed the user to “induce vomiting by touching back of throat with finger” in case of ingestion. Current medical first aid instructions no longer recommend inducing vomiting.

The required EPA Establishment number was also found to be incorrect for the product.  This number is used to identify where the product was last produced. It is crucial to maintaining product integrity, as production includes formulating, packaging, labeling and any alteration of the product prior to sale.

For more information about the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, please visit: http://www2.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-federal-insecticide-fungicide-and-rodenticide-act

Hawaii House and Senate Budget Conferees Agree on Funding to Increase Vector Control Staffing – Concern for Dengue and Zika Drives Need

House and Senate conferees on the state budget today agreed to provide $1,270,120 to bolster the state Department of Health Vector Control Branch to focus on controlling populations of animals and insects that spread disease.

Mosquito Bite

Hawaii Island’s recent outbreak of dengue fever and the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil, which are spread by mosquitoes, have highlighted the continued importance of vector control, and House and Senate conferees want to ensure that the state is prepared to adequately short circuit, monitor and respond to any future outbreaks.

“This funding will help re-establish the vector control branch, which has been reduced over the past few years by furloughs and budget cuts,” said Sylvia Luke, chairperson of the House Finance Committee.  “In making these appropriations, the department will be able to add 20 new positions to monitor populations of vectors such as mosquitoes and rats, and to respond appropriately when a threat arises.”

Before the dengue fever outbreak in October, 2015, the state had 25 vector control positions, but 8 were vacant. With the added 20 new positions, there will be a total of 45 people in vector control when all positions are filled.

“Infectious disease has been and will continue to be one of our key challenges in a world made smaller and more connected with modern day air travel,” said Jill Tokuda, chairperson of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  “The state’s recent slow response to the dengue fever outbreak on the Big Island was a wake-up call for all us.  We must be more vigilant in anticipating and responding to such outbreaks spread by mosquitoes and other vectors.”

In addition, the budget items agreed upon today included:

  • $6.9 million for public school transportation services;
  • $5.2 million for utilities for public schools;
  • $2.5 million for new fire trucks, firefighter equipment and fire retardant suits to ensure airport safety;
  • $1.5 million to fund a U.S. geographical survey study on Hawaii streams;
  • $1.4 million for port security and safety boats to reduce impact of natural disasters;
  • $1.25 million for maintenance and replacement of equipment at UH community colleges;
  • $400,000 to support beach restoration and protection projects and studies;
  • $180,000 for hydrologist and project development specialist positions for public land management for the disposition of water rights lease management and oversight; and
  • $162,354 for physician salary increases for better access to medical services for the Department of Public Safety.

The agreements were part of House and Senate conferees continued negotiations on a final version of HB1700, the state budget bill.  Earlier in the session, the House Finance Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee crafted their respective versions of the budget.

Lawmakers will continue to meet to iron out differences between the two versions through April 29, the deadline for all fiscal bills to pass out of conference committee.  A final conference draft will then be voted upon by the Legislature and if approved, will be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Budget worksheets detailing agreements and disagreements in the state and judiciary budget bills are available on the Capitol website at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/budget/2016budget.aspx

The conference committee is scheduled to reconvene on Friday, April 22, at 2:30 p.m. in room 309.

Big Island Substance Abuse Council Opening Food Trailer

Tomorrow, the Big Island Substance Abuse Council will proudly unveil their food trailer, Big Island Fusion as part of their Poʻokela Vocational Training Program.   The Food trailer will allow individuals to gain marketable skills and experience in food marketing, sales, business, and food preparation.

Bisac Food TruckBISAC has been providing aspects of vocational training for well over four years and has seen firsthand the positive aspects that training does to help individuals reclaim their lives and become positive citizens in the community. “We can already see the benefits this program has provided to our clients” says, BISAC’s CEO Dr. Hannah Preston-Pita. “Connecting the food trailer to our therapeutic garden provides an array of skills and opportunities for our clients to explore their inner strengths while enhancing their recovery.”

BISAC’s food trailer also brings to life the farm to table initiative. The Big Island Fusion’s culinary and vocational trainer, Willie Leong is currently in recovery and brings both the experience and passion for culinary arts.   “With my years of experience I will bring passion, creativity, and love for the food in every plate that is created” says Willie. “I know how it is being in recovery. The struggle is real. This trailer will allow me to give these individuals the chance for success so that they are ready to return to the real world and work on their recovery.”

Since 1964, BISAC has been inspiring individuals and families to reclaim and enrich their lives in the wake of the ravages of substance abuse. They offer a continuum of services that are culturally appropriate and aligned with the ever-changing behavioral health field.

North Hawaii Community Hospital Scholarship Opportunities

North Hawaii Community Hospital has several scholarship opportunities available for students in the field of nursing.

North Hawaii Community HospitalThe Peggy Dineen-Orsini Scholarship offers a $2,000 award to a resident of Hawaii County who is enrolled in or accepted for enrollment in a National League of Nursing accredited program in Hawai‘i or on the mainland. Private donors along with the Medical Staff at North Hawaii Community Hospital fund this scholarship in memory of Peggy Dineen-Orsini, who was a Registered Nurse at North Hawaii Community Hospital from 1996 to 2004, remembered for her compassion for her patients, colleagues and friends.

The second scholarship is funded by the North Hawaii Community Hospital Medical Staff and offers two $1,000 scholarships to residents of Hawaii County who are enrolled in or accepted for enrollment in a National League of Nursing accredited program in Hawai‘i or on the mainland.

Applications are available online by visiting www.nhch.com (see Community/Education Scholarships). Completed applications and required documents must be received or postmarked by May 6, 2016. Please mail completed applications and required documents to North Hawaii Community Hospital, Attention: Development Department, 67-1125 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kamuela, HI 96743.

For more information, contact the Development Department at North Hawaii Community Hospital at 881-4420.

Hawaii Department of Health Delays Announcement of Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licensees to April 29

The Hawaii State Department of Health is reviewing the criminal history records of applicants for the Medical Marijuana Dispensary licenses after announcing last week that applicants were given notice to provide consents and submit fingerprints.

Medical Marijuana“The applicants have been very responsive and a majority of applicants were able to submit their fingerprints and consents by Tuesday,” according to Peggy Leong, Supervisor for the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licensing Program. “A small number of applicants are traveling abroad and unable to respond as quickly as we had hoped. In addition, it also came to our attention that many business entities, such as limited liability corporations, corporations and trusts failed to submit the consents and fingerprints of the individuals involved in the entities. The department sent an email to all applicants clarifying the requirements of who is subject to a background check.”

“Given the situation, and in order to provide all applicants a fair opportunity to comply with the statutory requirements, we may not be able to obtain and review the remaining information until the last week of April,” Leong added.

Director of Health Dr. Virginia Pressler said, “We have requested that applicants submit the remaining consents and fingerprints no later than April 25 and we will be pushing hard to complete our review and announce the licensees by Friday, April 29. While we regret the delay, we believe the priority is to do this the right way, and that includes being fair to the applicants by providing this additional time.”

Leong said the applicants have all been very cooperative and understanding, despite the challenges of establishing a brand new and complex program, “We really appreciate their patience and willingness to work through this with us.”

More information about the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program can be found on the website: https://health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuanadispensary

Hawaii State Department of Health’s Restaurant Inspection Website Goes Live

The Hawaii State Department of Health has launched a new online portal that lets consumers see how Hawaii restaurants and other food service organizations fare in food safety inspections, starting first with Oahu inspection data.

As of 4/11/2016, I was not able to access the site.

Access to data from food safety inspection reports, complete with descriptions of violations, gives consumers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at food safety and sanitation practices — or a lack of them — at the food outlets they frequent.

“We’re taking transparency to an entirely new level,” said Peter Oshiro, who manages the food safety inspection program. “Information from the inspection reports empowers consumers and informs their choices.”

The online portal, which has taken nearly a year to develop and refine, is a companion component to the Hawaii State Department of Health’s placard program, which was launched in July 2014. Under the placard program, food outlets are given a green, yellow or red placards, and are required to post them in visible location at their entrances.

The color-coded placards indicate whether a food establishment has passed its health inspection, received a conditional pass, or has been closed due to permit suspension. Restaurants are fined for not posting them.

“Data from the inspection reports give consumers the details behind the green, yellow or red placards, which many have become accustomed to seeing near the entrances of restaurants or other places that serve food,” Oshiro said.

“Our observant inspectors are capturing every detail for their reports using established science-based criteria,” he added. “With this degree of disclosure, we believe the online reports will make restaurants and other food service organizations pay closer attention to their food safety and sanitation practices.”

Just as the publicly-posted placards provide an incentive for restaurants and other food service organizations to rectify any food-handling or other safety issues, the publicly-available data from the inspection reports are expected to motivate restaurants to take a closer look at their own practices since these reports become a permanent, historical record accessible to the public.

“About 25 percent of the locations we inspect receive a yellow card. We hope to see this rate steadily decline with this new website,” Oshiro said. “We can now show what a bad inspection looks like on a public site. This should be a great catalyst for the industry to improve their food safety practices and make internal quality control a priority before our inspections.”

Oshiro’s team has manually posted all of the previous Oahu inspections to the public portal and currently has nearly 7,000 inspection reports in the database. This represents about 80 percent of all the inspections completed statewide since the program began in July 2014. Oshiro anticipates the remaining Oahu inspection reports will be uploaded by May 2016. Past neighbor island inspections will be uploaded by the end of the year. Going forward, all inspection reports from all islands will be posted in near real-time, depending upon the availability of secure, wireless access.

More than 10,000 food establishments statewide prepare or serve food and require a Department of Health permit to operate their business. There are roughly 6,000 such establishments on Oahu, 1,800 on Hawaii Island, 1,700 on Maui, and 700 on Kauai. This includes restaurants, hotels, caterers, food warehouses, markets, convenience stores, lunch wagons, push carts, and institutional kitchens for healthcare facilities, schools, adult and child day care centers, and prisons.

The Hawaii State Department of Health began posting color-coded placards as part of the state’s “Food Safety Code” (Hawaii Administrative Rules, Title 11, Chapter 50, Food Safety Code) adopted in 2014. The placards are posted after each health inspection is completed at every food establishment that holds a Department of Health permit.

The Hawaii restaurant inspection website is at http://hi.healthinspections.us/hawaii.

Senator Schatz Visits CDC Headquarters, Meets with Top Official to Discuss Zika, Dengue Response in Hawaii

As the outbreaks of Zika and dengue continue to threaten communities in the United States and around the world, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters and met with top officials to discuss the CDC’s response to outbreaks in Hawai‘i.

Senator Brian Schatz in Puna after Hurricane Iselle

Senator Brian Schatz in Puna after Hurricane Iselle

During the meetings, Senator Schatz called for stronger vector-control programs to fight the spread of mosquito-borne viruses. Zika and dengue are transmitted by the same mosquito population, making vector-control programs a key component to preventing outbreaks.

“Dengue remains a public health emergency on Hawai‘i Island, and with new possible Zika cases in the state, we need more support from the CDC to fight these outbreaks,” said Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “While we continue to secure more funding, I am pleased we were able to get a commitment from the CDC to address dengue and the threat of Zika in Hawai‘i.”

Last month, Senator Schatz led eight senators in calling on the Senate Appropriations Committee to increase funding for mosquito-control programs.

During an appropriations hearing in February, Senator Schatz urged the Director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden, to coordinate with state and local governments to improve mosquito-control programs to help stop the spread of both dengue and Zika.

Hawai‘i has had over 250 confirmed cases of dengue since September 2015, mostly concentrated on Hawai‘i Island. Like dengue, Zika can be transmitted by mosquitos. Zika has been spreading throughout the Americas and has been linked with neurological ailments such as paralysis and devastating birth defects. The CDC has issued its highest alert level for Zika, while the World Health Organization has declared it a global health emergency.

Court Orders Hawaii’s Insurance Commissioner to Take Over Family Health Hawaii

Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito today announced that Family Health Hawaii, MBS (“FHH”), was ordered into liquidation.  The order was signed by State First Circuit Court Judge Karen T. Nakasone.

Click to read the liquidation order

Click to read the liquidation order

The order authorizes Commissioner Ito to take possession and control of FHH’s assets as the Liquidator and assume the powers of the company’s directors and officers for the protection of policyholders, creditors, and the public.  The Order of Liquidation is effective immediately.

Health insurance companies in Hawaii are required to meet statutory solvency requirements which include maintaining minimum net worth to ensure that they are able to meet their obligations.  FHH’s 2015 annual filings revealed that the company is below the minimum level required by law with no prospects of making up the deficit.  FHH had been working with the State’s examination team prior to the 2015 annual filing but had missed several key deadlines.

“This is a regrettable situation. However, once we determined the degree of the existing financial hazard, the decision was made to protect the policyholders and creditors,” said Commissioner Ito. “Falling below statutory solvency requirements compelled this liquidation action.  Further delay would only increase the risk of loss and jeopardize FHH’s policyholders’ access to healthcare and providers under their plans.”

The Insurance Division is working to ensure that all employer groups are notified and transitioned off of FHH group plans in an expeditious fashion.   Employer groups should contact their insurance broker or account management for assistance with the transition of coverage to a new insurer. For more information and assistance, employer groups and healthcare providers can call (855) 206-3277.

Employer groups can also contact HMSA, Kaiser, UHA and HMAA. These insurers are committed in assisting these groups in this difficult time.  Contact numbers for these insurers are:

HMSA         (808) 948-5555
KAISER       (808) 432-5237
UHA            (808) 532-4009     Toll Free  (800) 458-4600, Ext. 301
HMAA         (808) 591-0088     Toll Free  (800) 621-6998

Family Health Hawaii currently insures approximately 420 employer group plans, and does not provide individual plans.

More information will be provided by the Insurance Division on the claims process throughout the liquidation proceedings. For any other questions, please call (844) 717-7334 or visit www.familyhealthhawaii.com for FAQs. Hawaii consumers can call Hawaii Insurance Division’s Health Branch at (808) 586-2804 or visit www.cca.hawaii.gov/ins/ for FAQs.

More information is available at the following links:

Liquidation Order:

Frequently Asked Questions:

2016 Q1 Small Group Rate Comparison:

UH Hilo School of Nursing Accreditation Renewed

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo School of Nursing was recently awarded full reaccreditation for its Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing (BSN) program by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
UH Hilo Moniker“A full 8-year accreditation for our nursing school is a wonderful accomplishment,” said Director Katharyn “Kay” Daub. “I’m especially pleased that we were commended for our value in the educational pipeline with the expansion of our RN to BSN program.”

The announcement followed last October’s site visit when a review team met with the School’s administrators, students, hospital staff, faculty and community members. Daub said the team was impressed by the students and overwhelmed by the support of the advisory board and UH Hilo administration. She applauded the faculty‘s work on the rigorous self-study report, which led one reviewer to describe the curriculum alignment with American Nurses Association standards as the best that they had reviewed.

The ACEN accreditation process provides for the maintenance and enhancement of educational quality through continuous self-assessment, planning, and improvement. The next review is scheduled for Fall 2023.

Hilo Center Suspends Mammograms Pending FDA Recertification

Hawaii Radiologic Associates, Ltd. (HRA) has suspended mammography operations at its Hilo Women’s Imaging Center as it goes through a U.S. Food and Drug Administration process for recertification of its mammography services. The FDA notified HRA that patients who had mammograms between June 30, 2014 and August 24, 2015 should be notified of the possibility of inaccurate tests.
mammogramEach patient is being notified by certified letter of the potential concern and urged to review mammograms with their health care provider to determine if a retest is required.

HRA will review mammograms taken during that timeframe, if requested, and when necessary perform another mammogram at its Kona facility at no charge to the patient. Patients can also go to other certified mammogram centers of their choosing; HRA will provide previous mammographic examinations to that facility for review.

HRA’s Hilo Women’s Imaging Center continues to provide breast ultrasounds, magnetic resonance Imaging (MRI), bone density tests and breast biopsies.

James Lambeth, M.D., president of HRA, said the FDA ordered the suspension of the Hilo center mammograms after random samples showed that mammograms performed on one of the units failed to meet standards and further investigation resulted in the Hilo program being decertified.

“Patients who had mammography at our Hilo center during that time should not take this lightly,” said Dr. Lambeth. “Those who receive our letter should contact their doctors immediately to review their exam and determine if a repeat exam is warranted.”

Patients can go to the HRA website at www.hirad.com for more information and FAQs.

HRA performed 12,000 mammograms during the period.

“We apologize for this apparent lapse in quality assurance at our Hilo Center,” said Dr. Lambeth. “We want to make very clear that our Kona facility is unaffected by the decertification.”

Dr. Lambeth added that HRA is aggressively pursuing recertification for its Hilo facility and hopes to complete all requirements and be fully functional within three months. Technicians and other staff are undergoing additional training.

Hawaii Team Attends National Zika Action Plan Summit Held at U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today held a Zika Action Plan Summit, bringing together state and local senior officials to provide them with the information and tools needed to improve Zika preparedness and response within their state and jurisdictions. A delegation of leaders from the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) are attending the summit at CDC Headquarters in Atlanta to share their experiences and learn from their counterparts across the country.

This timely opportunity comes as the state is experiencing an uptick in imported Zika cases, among other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever and chikungunya.

Attendees were provided with presentations on the latest scientific knowledge about the Zika virus, including effects it can have on pregnant women and best-practices for mosquito control. One of the greatest challenges posed by this disease is that scientists are still learning more about Zika’s symptoms and how the disease can be transmitted.

“The summit provided an excellent opportunity for Hawaii to share our experience and knowledge while learning from other states about specific issues around the science behind Zika. This is especially important for our nation as we head into the summer months, when temperatures will rise and travel into and out of the country will peak,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler.

“It is crucial for Hawaii to have a unified outreach and response plan that is both scalable and flexible, and easily implemented at all levels of government.”

The summit also provided an opportunity to discuss communications challenges and effective strategies for increasing public awareness about Zika virus and precautionary measures that all people should take, especially pregnant women and women planning on becoming pregnant.

microcephaly

Pregnant women need to take special precautions against Zika virus and should avoid travel to areas where Zika is spreading. If a Zika infected mosquito bites a woman that is pregnant or may become pregnant, the Zika virus can be passed to her baby during pregnancy or at the time of birth. Scientists believe the Zika virus may be linked to microcephaly in newborns, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared with other babies of the same sex and age.

Scientists also believe that Zika virus can be spread from an infected man to his sexual partners. It is still unknown how long the virus can be spread in this way after the infected male’s symptoms have cleared.

Most people who contract the Zika virus will have mild or no symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika include rash, joint pain and red eyes (conjunctivitis), but can also include muscle pain and headaches. DOH urges people who are showing symptoms and have a recent history of travel to areas experiencing Zika outbreaks, to see their healthcare provider as soon as possible for testing.

For additional information about Zika virus and precautions, visit DOH’s Disease Outbreak Control Division’s website at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/dib/disease/zika_virus/.

For travel information and advisories, visit CDC’s website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information.

Reply From Hilo Medical Center to Senator Kahele’s Helipad Safety Concerns

Helipad

Dan Brinkman, Regional CEO East Hawaii Region HHSC, replied to Senator Kai Kahele’s letter yesterday about the Senators concerns over the Hilo Medical Center’s Helipad:

Dear Senator Kahele,

Several weeks ago we gave HLF notice that we would not be renewing their MOA with us when it expires in April. We asked HLF to locate its helicopter at HIA instead of the HMC helipad. Among other issues, the repeated failure of HLF to meet its MOA commitments to move its rotor within the agreed upon time parameters……when other rotors needed access, was a significant factor in the non renewal. At the expiration of the MOA, the helicopter will no longer be located on the helipad

As an aside, the East Hawaii Regional Board is the governing body for decisions that directly affect the well being of the East Hawaii community. Both HMC administration and our board welcome your continued input and involvement in improving the health and safety of our constituents.

It is good to be on the same page…
Aloha, Dan

Dan Brinkman
Regional CEO East Hawaii Region HHSC

Commentary – Senator Kahele on Safety Concern of Hilo Medical Center Helipad

On behalf of our constituents within the first senatorial district of Hilo and all of Hawai‘i Island, I am writing to request Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) Board to discontinue its Agreement for Purchase of Goods and Services (APGS) with Hawai‘i Life Flight, Inc. (HLF), signed on April 10, 2013 which allows permanent parking on the helipad of Hilo Medical Center (HMC) and has presented numerous safety of flight issues for other operators in the area.

Helipad

Although the agreement allows HLF to park their aircraft to one side of the helipad and the space meets the minimum requirements to do so – it has still proven, on numerous occasions, to present a safety concern.

The U.S. Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area Department of Emergency Services has reported that on two occasions within the past year, several of their Blackhawk Medevac helicopters have been prevented from landing safely during training patrols and other exercises because of HLF’s permanent occupation of the helipad. On October 29, 2015 an emergency transport helicopter arrived at the HMC helipad to find the HLF helicopter still on the helipad. As an HLF employee was securing the aircraft, the Medevac Blackhawk was in its final approach and unfortunately was forced to land with the HLF aircraft only partially secured.  The Engine Company Captain on scene reported a “near miss” incident with both aircraft being on the helipad at the same time.

Additionally, the County of Hawai‘i Fire Department which maintains two helicopters for emergency medical services has reported that on three separate incidents their Chopper 2 aeromedical helicopter has landed at the helipad with the pad being occupied by HLF.

One way to resolve this issue is to keep the helipad vacated and available at all times. This would ensure a safer overall operation.  It is our understanding that the aforementioned APGS is up for renewal on April 10, 2016 and that last fall representatives of the U.S. Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area met with HHSC’s Board of Directors and raised these safety of flight issues with them.  At that time, there was an indication that HHSC’s board did not intend to renew the agreement.

Because of these safety of flight issues which could have resulted in serious loss of life to patients, crew and bystanders on the ground – as well as loss of necessary medical equipment funded by and provided for the use of our community – we support your efforts to preserve necessary landing space at HMC to allow for a safer environment and improved access.

Thank you for your leadership in keeping the health and safety of our residents HHSC’s top priority and we look forward to working with you towards a positive solution.

Hau‘oli ka mana‘o,

Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele, Senate District 1-Hilo

Hawaii Department of Health Investigates Travel Related Cases of Mosquito Borne Illnesses on Oahu

The Hawaii State Department of Health is investigating four cases of travel related mosquito borne viruses on Oahu. The cases include an individual who traveled to Latin America, returned ill, and is being tested for dengue and Zika virus, as well as individuals who are being tested for dengue fever and chikungunya and have a history of travel to the Pacific Islands and Latin America. All of the individuals have recovered.

Mosquito Bite

Initial lab tests for the first individual referenced above conducted by the State Laboratories Division were not conclusive, and further testing will be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The department’s Vector Control teams have been assessing residential and other areas in urban Honolulu and along the North Shore this week to determine if mosquito control measure such as eliminating mosquito breeding sites or spraying to reduce adult mosquitos activity will be necessary.

Dengue fever, Zika, and chikungunya are all mosquito borne viruses that are spread when a sick person is bitten by a mosquito, which later bites another person. Evidence suggests that Zika can also be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact with someone who has been infected. The best way to prevent all these viruses is to take mosquito control measures and to avoid getting bitten. Some who carry Zika do not show symptoms, and in others, illness may last from several days to over a week. There is currently no cure for these viruses.

“The department expects to see more of these travel related cases as outbreaks of all these diseases continue in other countries,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “The department is working closely with the counties and taking precautionary measures to respond to all suspected and confirmed cases. We ask for the public’s help in reducing mosquito breeding areas around homes and workplaces and preventing mosquito bites by using repellant or protective clothing.”

Department of Health staff will continue to conduct site visits in various areas on Oahu in the coming week to assess problem areas for mosquito breeding and inform residents of the need to take precautions against mosquito-borne viruses. Residents who are not at home when a Vector Control team visits their neighborhood will receive a flyer or letter from the Department of Health and are advised to read the information carefully.

The public is advised that anyone who has traveled outside the country and has mild to severe symptoms such as fever, joint pain, rash, or red/pink eyes within 2 weeks after returning from travel should see their healthcare provider. All residents and visitors should avoid getting mosquito bites by using repellent and wearing light-colored clothing with long sleeves, pants, shoes and socks when outdoors. Residents should fix broken window and door screens at home, and get rid of standing water in the yard. Old tires, buckets, toys and plants, especially bromeliads, can become breeding sites for mosquitos.

For more tips on how to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne viruses, visit health.hawaii.gov.

Zika Virus Case Suspected on Maui

The Maui County District Health Office and the County of Maui jointly announced today a suspected case of Zika virus brought to the island by a resident who became ill while traveling in Latin America and upon return to Maui in February.

While initial lab tests were not conclusive, results did warrant further testing and pointed to a high probability of Zika, which carries other, more serious impacts than Dengue Fever.

Both Dengue Fever and Zika are spread when a sick person gets bit by a mosquito, which later bites another person. Evidence suggests that Zika can also be transmitted through sexual contact if a man has been infected. The best way to prevent both Dengue and Zika is to take mosquito control measures, and to avoid getting bitten. Some who carry Zika do not show symptoms, and in others, illness may last from several days to over a week. There is currently no cure for either virus.

“Because the lab results thus far point to the high probability of Zika, we are taking this very seriously,” said Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui County District Health Officer. “We need the public’s help in preventing the spread of whichever virus caused the illness so that we don’t get locally transmitted cases. The best way to do this is to eliminate mosquito breeding sites and make sure people avoid getting mosquito bites.”

Additionally, Department of Health and County of Maui staff and volunteers will be conducting site visits in various areas along the North Shore of Maui this weekend to assess problem areas for mosquito breeding and inform residents of the need to take precautions against mosquito-borne viruses.

“If you receive a flyer or letter from the Department of Health, please be sure to read the information carefully, as this public health issue affects us all,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa. “This is the time for our community to step up efforts to ‘fight the bite,’ by seeing a doctor if you have even mild symptoms, especially if you have traveled to parts of the world where there are outbreaks of these viruses.”

The public is advised that anyone who has traveled outside the country and has mild to severe symptoms such as fever, joint pain, rash or pink eye to see their physician. All residents and visitors should avoid getting mosquito bites by using repellent and wearing light-colored clothing with long sleeves, pants, shoes and socks when outdoors. Residents should fix broken window and door screens at home, and get rid of standing water in the yard. Old tires, buckets, toys and plants, especially bromeliads, can become breeding sites for mosquitos. A mixture of soapy water (1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap to 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle) can be sprayed on backyard plants to control mosquito larvae.

For more tips on how to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne viruses, visit www.mauiready.org.