East Hawaii News

Effort to Resolve Health Care Shortage Expands to Congress

April 16, 2013, 10:04 AM HST
* Updated April 16, 10:15 AM
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Hawaii’s congressional delegation is looking to boost efforts ongoing in Hawaii to address the shortage of health care providers in Hawaii – particularly on neighbor islands.

The Rural Preventative Health Care Training Act of 2013 would fund training for students capable of treating the 110,000 Hawaii residents who live there and in rural areas of Oahu.

US Sen. Brian Schatz. Courtesy photo.

US Sen. Brian Schatz. Courtesy photo.

“This legislation is critical to ensuring that everyone has access to affordable health care and preventive services regardless of where you live,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, who along with Sen. Mazie Hiron introduced the Senate version of the bill.

While the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will provide a “big step towards solving our health care crisis, there are still communities in Hawaii and across the country that have difficulty finding the appropriate care for their families,” Schatz said in a statement issued today.

“We must provide the appropriate training to students and those that want to serve our community, and this legislation would do just that.”

US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Courtesy photo.

US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Courtesy photo.

US Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Colleen Hanabusa introduced a House version of the bill.

“Access to quality care health care is a basic necessity, and one which oftentimes does not exist for those in our underserved rural communities,” Gabbard said. “This bill takes steps to address this urgent problem.”

In its current form, the bill would appropriate $5 million in each of the next four fiscal years to provide preventative health care training at community colleges or other institutions in rural areas.

There are at least two bills still alive in the Hawaii Legislature aimed at reducing the state’s shortage of doctors.

House Bill 417 would provide an as-yet undetermined amount of funding for a residency training program at Hilo Medical Center for primary care physicians.

The program is designed to get greater numbers of doctors to serve their residency period on the neighbor islands which in turn leads to more physicians deciding to open their practice there.

A similar measure, Senate Bill 665, would provide funding to expand the primary care program at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns school of medicine.

The bills have been approved by both houses of the state Legislature and are headed to conference committees to work out differences in language.

A third measure, Senate Bill 664, that would have funded the Hilo Medical Center program, was tabled by the House.

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