Saturday, May 25, 2013

How Good is Hawaii Island’s Health Care?

One of the questions we frequently get from people thinking about moving to Hawaii Island is, “how good are medical services and health care on the island?”.  Although Hawaii is highly rated for health care, the island of Hawaii has the highest death rate in the state for all causes.

According to a 2011 AAMC report, Hawaii was ranked 8th in the nation in the number of active physicians per 100,000 population at 305.4.  In comparison, Hawaii Island’s rate of 170 physicians per 100,000 population is lower than the state of Mississippi which was ranked lowest in the nation at 176.4 physicians per 100,000.  In April 2013, the University of Hawaii’s Medical school reported that the state is having a growing shortage of physicians; Hawaii Island has only 336 MD’s of the needed 530.

Although Hawaii Island is larger than all the other islands combined, there are only 3 critical access hospitals, Hilo Medical Center, Kona  Community Hospital, and North Community Hospital in Waimea with a total of about 350 beds. USNews Health report for 2012 stated that 36,930 patients visited Hilo Medical Center during the year and  7,858 were admitted.  North Community hospital had 11,285 emergency visits and 1,893 were admitted.

Traffic fatalities on Hawaii Island are almost 3 times higher than on Oahu with 17.3 deaths per 100,000 versus 8.7 deaths per 100,000 for the state and 6.6 deaths per 100,000 on Oahu. It is common for an ambulance, called to an emergency on a beach or resort in South Kohala, to transport a patient 40 miles or more to the Kona Community hospital in Kealakelua for acute care. 

For many residents on Hawaii Island, lack of health care has resulted in chronic, untreated health problems and early death.  The hospitalization for uncontrolled diabetes per 1,000 population was twice that of Honolulu in 2009.  Suicide rates are 20.7 deaths per 100,000 versus 12.8 per 100,000 for the state.  Obesity rates are 26.3% versus 23.1% for the state.  The death rate from heart disease on Hawaii Island is about 20% higher than the rest of the state.  Hawaii Island has an average life expectancy of age 79.7, the lowest in the state and 1.2 years less than Oahu

When comparing Hawaii Island’s health care results to the rest of Hawaii it concerns us, however the island’s statistics look better when comparing them to the mainland US.  Although Hawaii Island has a higher death rate from heart disease than the rest of the islands at 93.4 deaths per 100,000 people, it is substantially lower than the overall US rate of 191.4 deaths per 100,000.  And Hawaii Island’s suicide rate has increased along with the rest of the US, but it’s rate of 20.7 per 100,000 is lower than the state of Wyoming at 31.1 per 100,000. The island’s 26.3% obesity rate is average for the US and significantly better than the 10 US states with the highest obesity rates ranging from 29% to 33.5%.  And finally, the island’s life expectancy is better than the majority of the states in the US.

Our general view of Hawaii Island’s health care situation is that it all depends on where you use as a comparison.


LoriStyle said...

Which provider offers the best medical service there? Kaiser or Blue Cross?

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