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Susan Kang Sunderland

Queen’s Goes West

West Oahu once had its own hospital and ER, but it’s been two and a half years since it closed. That changes May 20 when the same facility re-opens as The Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu after more than $70 million spent on acquisition and improvements

Sound the trumpets. Roll out the red carpet. Royalty is in the house at West Oahu.

Here comes Queen’s.

The keys to a medical fiefdom have been passed, and within weeks Queen’s Health System begins a regional reign full of hope and expectations.

It’s been an anxious time since the closing in 2012 of St. Francis’ Hawaii Medical Center West on Fort Weaver Road in Ewa. On May 20, the doors to The Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu will open officially to serve the communities of Ewa, Kapolei, Waianae, Waipahu and Kunia.

A loud sigh of relief can be heard throughout the medical community, as strained emergency rooms and other services have had to accommodate displaced West Oahu patients.

Now those patients will be able to come “home.”

But this homecoming hasn’t been without a lot of contemplation, examination, anticipation and even anxiety of interested parties.

Let us recap a bit of this Westside story.

What Happened?

In December 2012, Queen’s Health System, corporate parent of The Queen’s Medical Center, acquired the former HMC West campus from St. Francis Healthcare System.

The West Oahu campus consists of more than 17 acres, a medical office building and a five-story, 100,000-square-foot hospital.

“When Hawaii Medical Center West closed in December 2011, more than 2,000 inpatient admissions and 30,000 emergency room visitors had to be moved to other area hospitals,” recollects Queen’s president and CEO Art Ushijima.

“With the opening of The Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu, residents will be served with a brand-new hospital, expanded emergency room, more operating rooms, new imaging facilities and equipment, and a renovated and modernized campus,” he heralds.

The acquisition of land and facilities, along with improvements, exceeds $70 million.

The shining light of Queen’s and its 155-year legacy as a health care provider has ignited joy in Oahu’s second city.

Ruler of the Realm

Leading the charge of Queen’s expansion is Susan Murray, senior vice president of The Queen’s Health Systems’ West Oahu Region and chief operating officer of The Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu.

Murray previously was an officer and regional administrator for Kaiser Permanente Foundation Health Plan and Hospital, a position she held for 11 years before joining Queen’s.

The Punahou and University of Hawaii graduate has an MBA in health services management from the University of Dallas.

Upon Murray’s appointment a year ago, Ushijima cited her “more than 20 years of experience in a broad array of senior health-care executive management and leadership roles on the Mainland and in Hawaii. She has specialty, tertiary care, nonprofit, for-profit and fully integrated health systems management experiences, which is extremely beneficial as we develop our own clinically integrated delivery system.”

The poised administrator already has delivered on the promise of her hiring. She has orchestrated the modernizing of what is essentially a new hospital and prepared a 500-employee force – more than half of whom live in the area – to welcome patients when the clock strikes 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 20.

The one-time flight attendant for Hawaiian Air, who transitioned into health care as patient coordinator at Straub and also worked at Kapiolani Medical Center, says, “Health care is a calling. It gives purpose and meaning to those who choose it as a mission.”

Royal Decree

Murray echoes the premise on which The Queen’s Health System was founded by Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV in 1859.

“The Hawaiian race was being decimated by foreign disease, and the two campaigned tirelessly for a hospital,” she relates. “They personally went door-to-door soliciting necessary funding.”

The result was the establishment of Queen’s Hospital on Punchbowl Street, the first hospital in the United States founded by royalty. Today it is the largest private hospital in Hawaii and the Pacific.

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