Kahuku Health Center Handy To Hundreds Of Campus Patients

Health aide Margaret Iloa (left) and chief operations officer Oreta Tupola at the health center's reception area. Photo from Jorene Barut.

Health aide Margaret Iloa (left) and chief operations officer Oreta Tupola at the health center’s reception area. Photo from Jorene Barut.

Editor’s note: DOE Windward District communications specialist Jorene Barut contributed to this progress report on Kahuku’s campus-based health center.

Kahuku High and Intermediate houses Hawaii’s only complete school-based health center, which has been treating its 1,879 students exclusively since last August for acute illnesses and chronic conditions, along with sports physicals, and dental, hearing and vision screenings.

A partnership with the DOE and the nonprofit Koolauloa Health Center and its staff — after a decade of planning — it’s a unique weekday service funded by a $500,000 federal grant and state money.

“Kids face so many barriers, and having this center on campus helps them stay in class and focused,” said Oreta Tupola, chief operations officer and a trained social worker for Koolauloa Health Center. “It’s comforting to know that there are medical professionals here to ensure that students receive the help they need because it can take a long time for an ambulance to arrive at our location.”

The former school health room was transformed into a 900-square-foot facility that now offers a reception area, two medical exam rooms, two dental exam rooms and space for school health aide Margaret Iloa. All health plans except Kaiser apply, and no student is turned away for inability to pay. Parental consent is required before children can receive services.

On an average day, 35 students now seek help at the center, Iloa said.

Before KHC opened, she said there were few dentists’ offices between Shark’s Cove and Kualoa. (On-campus services now include cleanings, X-rays, fillings and fluoride treatments.) And sick or injured students had to leave campus, missing instructional time and causing their parents to miss work.

Now there’s on-site care for serious and ongoing conditions such as infections, injuries, asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes. The center also does vaccinations, flu shots, well-child checks and counseling for emotional support, suicide prevention, stress management, etc. it also promotes healthy lifestyles and workshops such as concussion management training for athletes.

Speaking of sports: “Team moms started preparing healthier recipes like baked chicken instead of serving athletes fried chicken,” noted head football coach Reggie Torres. They also switched snacks, from high sugar and salt to heart-healthy alternatives.

Although appointments are encouraged, Tupola said walk-ins are what keep the staff busy. Asthma attacks, headaches and colds requiring a prescription are commonly treated.

The original Koolauloa Community Health and Wellness Center opened in 2004 to bring care to the rural North Shore. It also operates two community wellness clinics — at Hauula Shopping Center and near Kahuku Medical Center.