Women’s health clinic open in Hilo in an effort to address care shortages
University Health Partners of Hawaii (UHP) and the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) celebrated the opening of its first clinic on Hawaii Island in the town of Hilo on October 18. The clinic is located at 82 Puʻuhonu Place Community Surgery Center near Hilo Intermediate School and specializes in women’s health in an effort to address the island’s challenges with access to a full scope of health care.
The 2017 Hawaii Physician Workforce Assessment to the Legislature identified shortages in physicians statewide and specifically identified a 23 percent shortage in OB/GYN coverage compared to need on the Big Island. In recent years, some women in Hilo have had to travel to Honolulu for gynecological surgery, or more specialized care for high risk pregnancies and deliveries.
The clinic will be staffed by UHP and JABSOM faculty and medical students and will offer general OB/GYN services, as well as subspecialty care, including surgeries, related to women’s health. In addition to increasing rural access to care, the clinic hopes to train medical students in the challenges and rewards of rural practice to encourage them to remain in high demand areas like Hawaii Island and other outlying islands.
Explains Ivica Zalud, MD, PhD, Professor and Kosasa Endowed Chair of the OB/GYN Department at JABSOM,
“We are committed to advancing women’s health across the state as well as to advocating for a clinical learning environment for our medical students and OB/GYN residents. Hilo was a natural first step.”
JABSOM Dean Jerris Hedges also emphasized the importance of the clinic to the community and the school’s mission stating,
“The island gains two physicians who are skilled in a service shortage area, OB/GYN, while also providing a place in Hilo where doctors still training in OB/GYN at the University of Hawai’i can come to learn first-hand the skills necessary to work in a unique rural health care setting.”
The clinic and the workforce report underscore the larger problem of Hawaii’s medical workforce shortage. The report noted a physician shortage of 769 FTE’s 2017, which is predicted to increase as population and demographics shift.
Shortages are predicted to be particularly acute with regard to primary care and assorted subspecialties including Infectious Disease, Pathology, Pulmonary, Colorectal Surgery, and Neurosugery, with OB/GYN staffing levels predicted to be about 14 percent short statewide.