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Protecting our health with expanded training, facilities

Posted on Jan 27, 2022 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
More doctors and nurses have been needed during the pandemic. (Photo by: Queen's Health Systems)

More doctors and nurses have been needed during the pandemic. (Photo by: Queen’s Health Systems)

I believe everything begins with keeping us healthy and safe. Over the last seven years, we focused on modernizing our telehealth infrastructure, providing health services to underserved populations, and strengthening mental health services. In our pandemic response, we took immediate action to protect our health, provide healthcare for another 110,000 residents under our Medicaid program (a 34-percent increase since the start of the pandemic), and make sure everyone had good healthcare coverage. At the same time, we distributed critical medical supplies, including personal protective equipment, test kits, vaccines and medicines to protect the elderly, rural communities, as well as the entire state. I deeply appreciate the thousands involved in this monumental task.

Vaccinations have proven to be our strongest weapon against the coronavirus. In all, we’ve provided more than 2.5 million shots at hundreds of clinics across the state. But the virus has been relentless in exposing gaps in our healthcare infrastructure, including critical shortages of doctors and nurses. To address these concerns, we’re asking the Legislature to:

  • Fund the expansion of the University of Hawaii’s doctor residency programs on the neighbor islands.
  • Strengthen the university’s nursing program and add more clinical instructors at our community colleges. We want to add 39 lecturers across multiple campuses to handle the increased demand for nursing programs.

In addition, a new $3.7 million, federally funded project will improve access to health information, especially for underserved communities. The project will train and employ high school and undergraduate students to be health and digital “navigators” in 15 libraries across the state to help individuals access telehealth services and information.  . . . Our plans to relocate OCCC to Halawa will create a modern facility better suited to support the needs of its population. We’ve asked the Legislature for $45 million to build a consolidated healthcare unit at Halawa to better deliver medical and health services there (to protect the health of our inmates, staff and the general public).

Read more in the February Capitol Connection newsletter.

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