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Hawaiʻi Island survey on health care access launches statewide initiative

Tracey Niimi

Hawaiʻi’s doctor shortage is no secret, but a recent survey on Hawaiʻi Island found that more than 75% of respondents say the lack of physicians is the biggest barrier to health care access.

To help create a snapshot of health care access on Hawaiʻi Island, a local nonprofit launched the Access to Care pilot project. The survey is expanding to statewide communities starting Friday.

More than 2,200 community members and health care providers from Hawaiʻi Island participated in the Access to Care pilot project launched last fall by the local nonprofit Community First.

Randy Kurohara, the organization’s executive director, says survey results helped provide personal accounts of the gaps in health care services experienced by the island’s community.

“We have a thing where some physicians say theyʻre accepting new patients. And if you ask the people in the community, theyʻre saying, weʻre calling but doctors arenʻt accepting new patients,” says Kurohara. “Thereʻs sort of a disconnect there.”

Identifying those gaps, he says, is the first step to improving health care access in Hawaiʻi.

Throughout the month of April, residents from across the islands are being asked to share their experience with the health care system through a simple, fast, and 100% anonymous survey.

Lisa Rantz, executive director of the Hilo Medical Center Foundation, hopes the data uncovered by the survey will help to inform decision-making on health care access issues.

“We really want the voices of our community members heard. Can you get care when you need it? What supports do you need?” says Rantz. “We want to get those resources into the community, which is what our community members not only deserve, but they should expect."

Survey results from the Hawaiʻi Island pilot project, as well as the statewide survey, can be found online at communityfirsthawaii.org/access-to-care.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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