UHA Health Insurance has donated $25,000 to fund a temporary obstetrics position at nonprofit Mālama I Ke Ola Health Center, which is facing unprecedented demand with the recent closure of the island’s only private obstetrics practice.
The interim obstetrician will deliver babies and offer prenatal care to pregnant women until a new permanent OB-GYN starts at Mālama I Ke Ola on Dec. 26.
Maui was already facing a significant obstetrics challenge before the Aug. 8 wildfires with the announced October closure of the obstetrics practice at Maui Lani Physicians and Surgeons.
Mālama I Ke Ola is a Wailuku nonprofit healthcare organization with a mission to provide safety-net health care for the historically marginalized. Medicare and Medicaid patients are its two largest populations, but many women with private insurance on Maui began to look to Mālama I Ke Ola when Maui Lani announced the planned October end of its obstetrics practice.
“Given the exit of obstetrics providers on Maui, Mālama I Ke Ola is playing an even more critical role today to provide obstetrics to pregnant women on-island,” said Howard Lee, president and CEO of UHA. “Funding a new Mālama I Ke Ola obstetrician provides the women of Maui with needed healthcare so they are able to enjoy one of life’s greatest events with the support of family and friends close to home.”
As expected, Mālama I Ke Ola has seen a definite uptick in maternity patients who are delivering their babies starting in November.
With the devastating Lahaina fires, access to maternity care – and health services of all types – is even more impacted; Mālama I Ke Ola’s own Lahaina satellite clinic was destroyed, but it is currently providing West Maui services out of Lahaina Comprehensive Health Center.
“The closure of obstetric services at a private practice earlier this year had already put the community of Maui in an access crisis for obstetric services,” said John Vaz, MD, MSHA, the CEO & infectious diseases physician at Mālama I Ke Ola.
“The wildfires in August made this even more complicated for women and families displaced by the fires,” he said. “Mālama I Ke Ola Health Center stepped in to fill this gap for a community impacted by both these events; to provide pregnancy and delivery care in a high quality, trauma-informed and safe environment. This has largely been made possible through support and funding by partners such as UHA and other health insurance plans, who have also seen this solution as their responsibility and commitment to the community of Maui.”