By Paul Mullin
As attractive as windmills and tsunamis are for subjects of discussion, a recent rant in The Dispatch demands a resounding reply.
Several weeks ago, a writer commented that there was no need for the continued existence or growth of the Molokai Community Health Clinic (MCHC). The writer was evidently a fanboy or employee of Molokai General Hospital (MGH) and had a strong bias in that direction. While my comments here may create some anger in certain circles, I can document my claims with specific examples but I won’t do so in print for obvious reasons.
My wife and I are both retired health care workers and have experience in hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices ranging from University Medical Centers and top tier private hospitals all across the US, to Molokai. I can tell you without any question or doubt that the need for MCHC grew out of the failings and inadequacies of MGH.
The problems range from the front desk to the billing office and at every level in between. Administrative mistakes, rudeness, sloppy practice with resultant missed or faulty diagnosis, poor technical practices, abominable billing errors that go on for years, and sadly an apparent failure to adequately care for the large medically indigent population on this island all led up to the founding of MCHC.
The new facility at MGH has helped but it isn’t the facility that makes the quality. Look to the world famous Peter Bent Brigham hospital in Boston, a center of dazzling excellence for decades despite crumbling facilities. It’s always the people that make the difference.
Any Molokai patient who needs to travel to Oahu for care can attest to the dramatic difference at every level, from the registration clerks and billing people to the nurses, techs and doctors, front office and back. There is a level of professionalism there that has rarely been seen on these shores. It starts in the parking lot and goes from there.
Friendliness, courtesy and efficiency, but most of all, excellent care, stand with any big regional center in the US. This is true of the physicians and other professionals that travel to our island to deliver care as well. There are some true “superstars” in that dedicated group that make up for a great many ills in the local scene.
For some years after our arrival, we used MGH and the Family Clinic for our immediate medical needs and as long as Tessie Princer was our doctor, all went well. We have been blessed with good insurance and we can go anywhere but she was another superstar who was grossly overburdened in her assignments here.
We struggled with the aftermath of her departure for the intervening years until MCHC opened its doors with a bright, energetic young doctor fresh from the Gulf War. We miss Dan Schuman terribly but his successor was an excellent, mature internist who carried on the tradition. His retirement has been painful and I am sorry to say that MCHC is now suffering from some of the same, ills that have beset MGH. Errors and screw-ups propagate from MGH to MCHC and back and forth.
Much of what we see can be summed up in a single word: professionalism. There seems to be an “It’s good enough for Molokai” attitude that permeates the organizations as though the people of this island, local and import alike, aren’t entitled to excellent care.
This goes against everything that we learned growing up in major centers on the mainland where your personal best was required at all times, whether you liked the patient or not and regardless of his origin. Let me say that every soul on Molokai deserves the best health care that either facility can muster and competition is an essential ingredient to making that ideal come true. Every human life is precious. Both organizations desperately need to clean up their act. They have and are injuring people and wasting resources and it needs to stop.
I am open to discuss this with administrators and caregivers alike if any of you really think I am out of line here or want to explore places where improvements can be made. I sincerely apologize to the handful of true professionals who struggle here with inadequate facilities and support staff. I am not speaking of you here.
Paul Mullin is a long-time resident of Maunaloa