Health and Hotel Labor Unions Rally in Waianae

Nanaikeola clinic

by: Jeff Tadashi

Members from a dozen labor unions across the tourism and healthcare industries rallied in Waianae on over the weekend to protect local jobs.  Nearly 4,000 hospitality employees are still waiting to go back to work even though the state is seeing an influx in visitors.

Meanwhile, in the healthcare industry, rally members from Kaiser Permanente said they are frustrated over the company’s plan to subcontract jobs out of California.  Demonstrators specifically chose to organize in Waianae to urge Kaiser Permanente to reopen the Nanaikeola clinic, which has been closed. Members said they are demanding the healthcare provider reinstate the leeward community’s access to these resources.

Unions accuse big corporations like the hotels and Kaiser Permanente of using the pandemic as an excuse to implement changes that make it harder for our community to survive.

If Kaiser is closing clinics and subcontracting Hawaii healthcare jobs to California, that is indeed troubling.  It is troubling because it reduces the state’s medical resiliency and preparedness.  Even before the pandemic, we were historically dependent on travel nurses during flu seasons.  The current pandemic is not entirely over either.  It is too early to be declaring victory on our own terms and heading for greener pastures.   

Unions and Democrats should not be so quick to vilify hotels and healthcare companies by labeling them as big corporations.  The state Democratic Party and the unions themselves are also big corporations.  They are all after the same limited pockets of money.  The group – corporations, unions, Democrats – that has the most altruist intentions for residents is forever debatable.

The facts are clear, Democrats and unions have made Hawaii $97 billion in debt and entirely dependent on external sources of revenue, medicine, fuel, and food.  Under their leadership and representation, they have deprived Hawaii of life-support.  Democrats and unions need look no further than the mirror to discover the reasons why hotels and other businesses are not re-opening, why workers have not returned, and industries are leaving the state.  

What we need to know is the exact reason why 4,000 hotel workers have not allowed to return.  What we need to know, is why Kaiser closed that clinic.  We need to remove these reasons.  If we cannot remove them, then we need to find a replacement for the Kaiser clinic in Waianae.  

I suspect that the Kaiser clinic did not have enough throughput to justify the overhead.  If Kaiser won’t come back, is there an alternative company who would assume the market?  Is there an existing business, such as a drug store chain, that could expand to provide some of the missing services?

We may have to find and enable mobile health clinic alternative, reminiscence of Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) where services are provided from bus or tractor-trailer housed clinics.  Enable such an enterprise to operate from a central hub but make weekly scheduled visits day-long visits to outlying cities like Waianae.  

Given the federal and state governments’ emphasis on broadband access expansion and Artificial Intelligence, perhaps it is even time to install some “medical ATMs” in Hawaii’s outer-lying cities.  Tele-health by Zoom was not quite successful during the pandemic.  Patients typically had to go into the office for diagnostics any ways.  If there are machines that can perform an on-site diagnostic, then perhaps an immediate treatment could be prescribed.      

We also need to look at three other areas.  First, the state needs to actively recruit in available populations for healthcare workers.  If we cannot get Hawaii-born workers interested in healthcare, then we need to approach the retired healthcare population residing in Hawaii and see how many of them will return.  It is doubtful that the retired population will be able to fill all needs.  The next populations are both in the mainland and overseas.  These are traveling positions, but we would want them full-time and long term.  There would need to be some type of incentive to come here.  Residency or tax exemption, but these are not offered now and likely won’t be.

The third place to look is education.  We’re going to have to change what we require.  Now we focus primarily on associate degrees and bachelors which takes 2-4 years.  We really need to cut this to 9-12 months.  It takes the Army and the Navy 9-12 months to make an independent duty medic.  These men and women treat the worst traumas imaginable.  We need to rewicker our community colleges and our expectations that everyone must have a degree.  If we do this, we will expand the available recruitment pool and fill our missing requirements from within the state.