East Hawaii News

Hawai’i Radiologic Associates in Kona and Hilo abruptly closed — leaving patients in the dark

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Clients who arrive at Hawai’i Radiologic Associates in Kailua-Kona are being told their appointments are canceled and won’t be rescheduled until a computer issue is fixed. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

For more than a week, clients with scheduled appointments at Hawai’i Radiologic Associates in Kailua-Kona have been met at the front door by personnel in scrubs informing them no services are being performed due to computer and phone issues.

It’s the same situation at Hawai’i Radiologic Associates’ other three Big Island locations in Hilo.

Clients with appointments and patients waiting for results of ultrasounds, mammograms and other imaging services say they have been left in the dark by the for-profit company, which calls itself “Big Island of Hawaiʻi’s leading radiology group.”

Kona resident Bolo Mikiela Rodrigues has been desperately waiting for Hawai’i Radiologic Associates to provide the results from an Oct. 14 ultrasound that his doctors need to help determine the cause of his kidney, dehydration and malnutrition issues that are painful and have led to a weight loss of about 40 pounds.

“I’m just like worrying it is life-threatening,” he said. “I feel terrible. I am super weak and fatigued.”

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Rodrigues said it took him weeks to get the appointment and now he has been unable to get the results, or get anyone at Hawai’i Radiologic Associates to explain when he will despite repeated calls.

“No, no, no, nobody has contacted me,” he said. “I’m getting sicker and sicker and not able to turn this around. And what if other people are like me, or worse?”

Volcano resident Hayley Ford said she tried calling Hawaiʻi Radiological Associates on Oct. 20 and there was only “dead silence” on the other end. She went to the Ponahawai Street office and there was a big metal gate with a woman outside taking names and numbers but providing no information.

Ford is suffering from extreme migraine headaches and loss of vision and needs a brain MRI.

“My optometrist and neurologist are concerned,” she said. “This really is delaying a lot of people’s medical care. HRA’s inability to have transparency is appalling and is unprofessional.”

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Hawaiʻi Radiologic Associates sent a letter — to providers, not patients — on Oct. 25 saying the company was experiencing “technical difficulties.”

The letter said those difficulties were causing disruptions to some of their computer systems and telephones — and that the company is working with specialists to restore the affected systems quickly and securely.

“We are also investigating the source of the issue and confirming the impact to our systems,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, as a result of this system outage, we are currently unable to to do any procedures or exams at this time. … Patients with scheduled appointments will also need to be rescheduled to a later date.”

At the Hawai’i Radiologic Associates’ Kona location on Wednesday morning, an employee said that the organization would provide a statement later today. It has yet to be received.

Calls to the Kona and Hilo locations instantly play a recorded message saying basically the same thing that is written in the letter. It also said all patients with appointments scheduled through Nov. 13 would be rescheduled to a later date. Hawai’i Radiologic Associates’ website is down.

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Emily Crabill, spokesperson for the Hawai’i Island Community Health Center in Kona, said their patients islandwide have been affected by the closure, especially those needing CT and MRI scans that must be completed within 90 days of getting a referral.

With no estimated time on when Hawai’i Radiologic Associates will reopen, it is a “stresser for patients,” she said.

“It’s frustrating,” added Kona resident Kim Kruger, who went for her Monday appointment only to be barred from the door. She said there were employees inside, none wearing scrubs, and all looking unhappy.

“My appointment is not a big deal, for a DEXA scan [to determine bone density],” she said. “But what happens to somebody who maybe has a tumor? Where do you go?”

It already was difficult to get timely imaging services on the Big Island.

Kaiser Permanente offers imaging services on the island, but they are limited to Kaiser members.

Hawai’i County’s three hospitals — Kona Community Hospital, Hilo Community Hospital and North Hawai’i Community Hospital in Waimea — offer imaging services and already they are experiencing an increase in patients due to the closures.

“Over the past two weeks, Hilo Medical Center has experienced a 24% overall increase in utilization of our imaging services,” said Elena Cabatu, spokesperson for Hilo Medical Center.

Walk-in appointments for imaging services are available at the hospital Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Select imaging procedures require scheduling.

Lynn Scully, spokesperson for North Hawai’i Community Hospital, said there has been an increase of 10 to 15% for imaging modalities.

“Like everyone else, we have some staffing challenges so we have not been able to increase hours/days so some may see a bit of a wait for an appointment but we are prioritizing urgent requests,” she said.

Kona Community Hospital spokesperson Judy Donovan said the hospital already was in the beginning stages of opening its imaging services on the weekends. Donovan said the team decided to move up the timeline after learning about the current situation with Hawai’i Radiologic Associates.

The expanded hours will begin on Saturday. Services available include echo cardiograms, ultrasounds and X-rays. The new weekend schedule does not include MRI imaging or CT scans.

The imaging services are by appointment only and require a provider referral.

“We’re trialing Saturday and Sunday appointment openings during November and December in order to accommodate our patients’ hectic schedules,” said Craig Davis, Imaging Department Director. “We will review the success of the weekend appointment schedule after the New Year to determine whether it is feasible to make a permanent shift to this new schedule.”

Kona Community Hospital Imaging Department schedulers can be contacted for appointments at 808-322-4490. Click here for information on imaging appointments and forms.

But in the meantime, the clients of Hawai’i Radiologic Associates are in limbo.

For people like Rodrigues, who are awaiting results, it’s difficult to know what to do. Uncertain when, or if, he will ever receive his results, he is considering trying to get another ultrasound.

“But I was told [by his doctors] that my insurance might not pay for it,” he said. “They don’t know. Nobody is telling them anything either.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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