Wednesday, October 5 4:07 am
By Colin M. Stewart
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Hilo Medical Center Foundation members hope that recent efforts to renovate an old cottage behind the hospital will ultimately help address the Big Island doctor shortage.
When young doctors graduate from medical school and launch their careers, they are required to complete what is known as a residency program. Under the supervision of experienced doctors, residents go through an on-the-job training, of sorts, before they can officially be licensed.
Studies have shown that young doctors, some of whom are beginning families as well as careers, often choose to settle and work in the towns where they worked as residents.
It is that fact, say members of the Big Isle’s health care community, that will play the biggest role in helping East Hawaii attract its next generation of physicians.
But, says HMC Foundation board member Dr. Lynda Dolan, if Hilo’s new rural family practice residency program, which is still in the process of getting off the ground, is to reach its full potential, a very important piece of the puzzle must first be taken care of.
“The residents need somewhere to live,” she said.
“Cost is prohibitive in terms of coming here, figuring out how you’re going to live. You’ve got to pay rent here, and you’ve got to pay rent wherever you came from. There’s also a cost-of-living factor that’s prohibitive. In addition, you’ve got to rent a car, or ship your car over. So, finding a place to live that’s either free or relatively cheap in Hilo is difficult.”
In an effort to address those problems faced by newcomer resident doctors, the foundation has leased from HMC an old cottage on the hospital grounds that used to serve as a home for the facility’s CEO, said HMC Foundation Executive Director Lori Rogers. By leasing the property, she said, the nonprofit organization has been able to solicit donations from various East Hawaii individuals, businesses and civic groups.
The house has been the beneficiary of donations of money and time from numerous area residents, Rogers said. The building’s roof has been completely replaced, the walls are set to be repainted, furnishings have been arranged, and other necessities are either in the works or have already been donated.
Among those who contributed:
— The East Hawaii Lions Club pressure washed the outside of the cottage to get it ready to paint;
— Sherwin Williams in Hilo donated all the interior and exterior paint and painting supplies for the project;
— Ohana Environmental Construction aided in the prep and cleaning for painting the inside of the cottage;
— The Rotary Clubs of Hilo and South Hilo helped to paint the inside of the cottage;
— Hamakua Construction provided a cedar ceiling for inside the main living room;
— Big Island Pizza and Subway helped keep hungry volunteers fed;
— Halekulani and Hawaii Hilton Hotel donated all the new furnishings for the cottage, and Young Bros. donated a 20-foot container to ship them over from Oahu;
— Koehnen’s donated inside window treatments;
— and HPM Building Supplies provided roofing materials.
Formerly known as the “Administrator’s Cottage,” the roughly 4,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home is now called the “River Cottage,” and features a view of a waterfall along the Wailuku River.
It has a large living room, large meeting/family room, an outside screened lanai, a kitchen/dining room, laundry room, carport and fenced area around the outside lanai.
Once work on the renovation project is complete, Rogers said, “we will be inviting all the community donors up to the River Cottage to thank them and celebrate the completion of the project.” The foundation will also “hand over the keys” to HMC, she added.
According to Dolan, foundation board members hope to have the cottage readied in time for a pair of residents who will arrive in January.