Gov. Green returns to Hawai‘i Island where he practiced medicine to sign health care bills

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Surrounding by Hawai‘i Island lawmakers, Gov. Josh Green signs health care bills at Kealakehe Clinic in the Hawaiʻi Island Community Health Center on June 22, 2023. (Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now)

On Thursday, Gov. Josh Green came to Hawai‘i Island — where he worked as an emergency room doctor — to sign his first health bills as the state’s leader.

The ceremony at Kealakehe Clinic in the Hawaiʻi Island Community Health Center was a full-circle moment as Green explained he never would’ve come to Hawai‘i if not for the job he got 23 years ago to be a doctor at an East Hawai‘i community health center.

His journey for better health care in rural communities led him to the state legislature and ultimately to be elected governor.


Green signed three bills at the clinic to support healthcare and its access. Outside of the event, he signed 10 additional health care bills.

“Access to health care shouldn’t be a ‘want to have,’ but a ‘need to have,’ and we will continue to work toward finding those solutions that increase access, especially in our rural communities,” Green said.

Several of Hawai‘i Island’s legislators were also at the ceremony, including Rep. Mark M. Nakashima (D-1, Hāmākua, portion of Hilo, Ka‘ūmana) who said healthcare access is critical to the wellbeing of Big Island residents.


“When the only option is to travel to Oʻahu to see a doctor, it can be overwhelming and financially burdensome,” Nakashima said. “I’m pleased with the expansion of telemedicine and the scope of practice for nurse practitioners and health care professionals, which aims to safely increase available healthcare services to neighbor island residents.”

Hawai‘i Island Community Health Center CEO Richard Taaffe also spoke to the crowd gathered at an outside pavilion at the Kealakehe clinic.

  • Gov. Josh Green speaks at a bill signing ceremony at the Hawai‘i Island Community Health Center in Kealakehe on June 22, 2023. (Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now)
  • Richard Taaffe, CEO of Hawai‘i Island Community Health Center, speaks at a bill signing ceremony at the Kealakehe Clinic on June 22, 2023. (Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now)

“We call this a modern day pu‘u honua, a place of safety, a place wellness, a place of healing,” he said.


The signed bills address the shortage of health care professionals in the rural communities by creating an easier interstate licensure process while still meeting nationally established standards for education and training. Hawaiʻi currently has about 4,000 healthcare vacancies, including 776 for physicians and 1,000 for nurses, according to governor’s office.

He also signed bills that provide school loan forgiveness to health care workers and that decriminalize fentanyl testing strips.

Additional healthcare-related bills signed by Green:

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. 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.

Tiffany can be reached at [email protected].
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