“Appropriates funds to restore staff and long-term care services at Leahi and Maluhia hospitals within the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation.”— SB2064
The effort to save two critical long-term care resources in Hawaii has kicked off at the legislature.
It’s going to be challenging. We all know there are too many excellent causes competing for the limited pot of dollars.
And then there are the not-so-excellent causes.
An example of that is the ridiculous HB1988 introduced by Representative Romy Cachola.
Cachola wants to replace the reflecting pools around the state capitol with dancing fountains. You know, like the ones at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, only smaller.
Holy waste of money, Batman. Pass me an aspirin. Make that three.
Granted, the existing pools are often yucky and smelly and cost almost $100,000 a year to maintain. So do something about that. Something sensible.
Cachola claims fixing the fountains at a cost of millions of dollars doesn’t make sense, so why not spend those millions to build dancing fountains instead?
The bill claims “The construction of water fountains in the reflecting pools would make the pools essentially self-cleaning by circulating the now-stagnant water. This would reduce algae growth, lessen foul odors, and save money on cleaning expenditures which could be reinvested to repair and improve the reflecting pools.”
I have to admire Representative Cachola’s optimism and chutzpah, even as my eyes roll almost to the back of my head.
Never mind that dancing fountains would cost millions both to construct and to maintain. Those beautiful fountains at the Bellagio cost 40 million dollars to build and millions more every year to maintain the pools, the computers, electronics and hardware.
And yes, I know it would cost far less to build a smaller version at the capitol. So instead of 40 million, maybe our little fountains would cost 10 or 15 million. Not so bad, right?
But, hey, I have an idea. Why not funnel those 10 or 15 million dollars into saving Leahi and Maluhia hospitals, thereby assuring that Hawaii’s working-class elderly and severely disabled have a place to go?
Really, think about it. The bill, SB2064, is fairly straightforward. It says that these two state-run hospitals are a safety net for working class families.
It says that both hospitals serve the highest number individuals on Medicare and Medicaid even as reimbursements for care continue to decline.
It says it’s nearly impossible for these long-term-care facilities to recover the actual costs of providing quality care without the government (yes, that’s you, Mr. Cachola and all your colleagues) stepping in to provide support.
Both these facilities have already cut 64 staff positions—real people who lost real jobs. Real people who can no longer provide dedicated care and comfort to their physically and/or mentally helpless patients.
Some residents were displaced. 76 beds were lost. And the hospitals are not admitting new residents. This, as we in Hawaii are watching our aging population grow and the options for caring for them shrink.
This is unacceptable. And I know most of our state lawmakers know it.
The bill does ask for money, of course. Doesn’t it always come down to the money?
It’s asking for 10 million, 300-thousand dollars to make sure working class families have these critical resources to turn to.
10 million, 300 thousand dollars to ensure our Kupuna are taken care of without breaking their families financially and emotionally.
10 million, 300 thousand dollars. It can be money well spent, or money down the drain.
I don’t think Representative Cachola is a frivolous or stupid man. I just think his suggestion is better suited for a different time— perhaps when the state of our economy is better.
Dancing fountains might seem more palatable when we no longer have to choose between cooling down overheated children in hotbox schools and paying our citizens a living wage. Or when we can house all of our homeless families.
Or when we can take care of our Kupuna —without bankrupting the families who love them.