Residents on the Westside are raising concerns about the continued closure of Kaiser Permanente’s Nanaikeola Clinic — one of only two medical facilities on the Waianae Coast.
The clinic closed in March 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and has yet to reopen.
Kaiser is in the process of evaluating its existing facility footprint and how and when it can open clinics, spokeswoman Laura Lott said in an email last week. There has been no decision about if — or when — they will reopen the clinic. All Nanaikeola staff are currently employed at other Kaiser clinics.
At this month’s Nanakuli-Maili Neighborhood Board Meeting, Kaiser employee Gracie Esperanza made an emotional plea for the board to support a petition by the Unite Here Local 5 urging Kaiser to reopen the clinic. The union’s petition says the clinic’s closure “worsens the already challenging access to health care that West Oahu residents face.”
“How can we provide health care access to the Waianae Coast if Kaiser doesn’t plan to open Nanaikeola clinic?” Esperanza said.
Two other residents spoke at the meeting about the challenge of accessing health care — in particular, having to drive out of Waianae for medical appointments, tests, and prescriptions. Board Chair Patty Kahanamoku Teruya said she has received numerous calls from kupuna asking when the clinic will reopen, as it is located across the street from Nanaikeola Senior Apartments.
“It’s not fair to our community to limit their health care resources,” Esperanza said, “And it’s not fair for the workers who have to travel farther for work and can’t service the community they love.”
A Longer Drive For Care
Founded in the 1990s, the Nanaikeola Clinic offered same-day primary care and pharmacy services, as well as speciality services in behavioral health and diabetes education. Besides Nanaikeola, the closest Kaiser clinics are in Kapolei and Waipio. For other insurance holders, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, located four miles from Nanaikeola, has been serving the Westside community since 1972.
Nanakuli resident Liz Dixon is the main caretaker for her parents, Thomas and Olga Dixon. Before the pandemic, Dixon would only have to drive five minutes from her house for her parents’ appointments. She says that the convenient location relieved a lot of the stress of being a full-time caretaker.
“Think about all of the people who live in Makaha, Waianae and Maili, where traffic is already our biggest issue. It’s already a nightmare,” Dixon says.
Dixon has taken her parents to the new Kapolei clinic, but she says it’s not like Nanaikeola. Though they have more modern facilities and easier check-in processes, she feels that the clinic is meant to serve Kapolei and Ewa, not all of the Westside.
Dixon says that the familiarity with the staff at the Nanakuli center helps with the stress of being a caretaker.
“When we walk into Nanaikeola, they know us. We see them so often, they feel like family,” Dixon says.
The Local 5 petition calls on Kaiser to reopen the clinic and stop job cuts from their Patient Financial Services department.
“There’s a trend here that Kaiser closes its facilities without community input,” Bryant de Venecia, a Local 5 communications organizer said. “We see these closures as unnecessary for the community and it’s really an equity issue. We as a community are greatly impacted by these closures, but we don’t have a say about when they reopen.”
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