Groundbreaking held for $2.3 million pharmacy expansion at Kona Community Hospital

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Clayton McGhan, CEO of West Hawai’i Regional, speaks at the groundbreaking of a drug compounding facility at Kona Community Hospital on July 6, 2023, with Hawai’i County Mayor Mitch Roth in attendance. (Photo courtesy: Kona Community Hospital)

For years, pharmacists at Kona Community Hospital have been looking forward to a project to expand their space to include a clean room suite where they can prepare IV medications and store them for longer.

On Thursday, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the $2.3 million project with Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth, state Sen. Tim Richards, state representatives Nicole Lowen and Kirstin Kahaloa, and hospital staff in attendance.

This pharmacy upgrade will enable the hospital to treat more people, and be able to supply life-sustaining medication for oncology patients.

“The irony of this financial lifeline is not lost on us,” said Missy Elliott, West Hawaiʻi Regional Director of Pharmacy. “Our pharmacy provides life-saving medications to our community. To know that we can continue to do so and eventually increase our capabilities to provide our patients peace of mind knowing that they can get the care they need closer to home is priceless.”

Missy Elliott, Director of Pharmacy at Kona Community Hospital, points out is segregated compound room used to mix IV medications. The hospital is seeking state funding to expand the pharmacy to build a clean room suite. (Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now)

“Today marks a significant milestone for our hospital and the patients who rely on our services,” said Clayton McGhan, West Hawaiʻi Regional CEO. “We are grateful to the community and our partners for their support this legislative session so our dedicated staff can continue providing a high level of compassionate care for years to come.”

West Hawaiʻi Regional operates Kona Community Hospital and Kohala Hospital — and it is part of Hawaiʻi Health Systems Corporation.

Elliott said the pharmacy currently has a room — the segregated compound area — that enables the safe mixing of medications for inpatients and infusion patients. However, the compound area only lets the hospital store those mixtures for 12 hours because the air circulation doesn’t flow in the right direction. A clean room suite status requires air to flow from the ceiling down. Currently, the air is flowing from the ground toward the ceiling.


While the airflow is going in the wrong direction, Elliott said the room is immaculately pristine and tested regularly with no bacteria or mold growth.


But because of the short shelf-life of the mixed medications in the current segregated compound area, “we waste a lot of stuff,” Elliott explained. “In a clean room suite, it keeps stuff for up to a week. It will help us provide better care for inpatients and those who get outpatient care.”

The clean room suite will be built on the backside of the hospital, but will still be accessible through the pharmacy.

Green also approved approximately $16 million in funding to Kona Community Hospital for a variety of other infrastructure upgrades.

The groundbreaking comes almost a week after Gov. Josh Green signed the state’s biennial budget, which includes the funding for the hospital’s pharmacy expansion for drug compounding. It is expected to open in late 2024.

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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