So I’ve seen two news stories this month basically reporting the same thing: Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang really wants to get down and do some solid research on how the cane burning conducted by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (a subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.) actually affects Maui residents’ lungs, but he’s running into a bet of resistance from local hospitals, including Maui Memorial Medical Center (MMMC).
First, we have The Maui News‘ Oct. 4 story on the matter:
The state Department of Health has completed the first phase of a study on the health effects of sugar cane burning on Maui, and, while the preliminary results hint at people suffering ill effects downwind of cane burning, the study won’t be complete until Maui Memorial Medical Center and island health clinics allow researchers access to their records, said Dr. Lorrin Pang of the state Department of Health.
That was nearly a month ago. But today, Maui Now reported that things haven’t really changed:
Pang, who spent 20 years as a clinical research specialist with the World Health Organization, has grown impatient with some administrators in the health care system on Maui, who he complains are preventing his team from finishing their task.
The study “is a worthwhile thing, but we need the clinic and hospital data” says Pang, “they (administrators) were initially willing, but now they’re raising the issue of privacy, despite DOH already having clearance.”
Indeed, though I can’t say I’m really surprised at Maui Memorial’s, shall we say, reluctance, at cooperating with Dr. Pang. Hospital officials explain in the stories that the research requests take too much time and resources away from the hospital and have the potential of violating patient privacy.
While hospital officials are undoubtedly being sincere, to be fair those explanations hardly make Pang’s requests impossible. Of course, there are also 50,000 additional reasons why the hospital wouldn’t want anything to do with Pang’s research.
Here’s an excerpt from the Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation’s June 2012 newsletter:
The Alexander & Baldwin Foundation recently awarded a $50,000 grant to the Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation to support MMMC’s Heart & Vascular Center.
“Alexander & Baldwin is very proud to help bring this new Heart & Vascular Center to the people of Maui,” said Alexander & Baldwin Foundation President Meredith Ching. “We have more than 800 employees and well over 600 retirees–and their families–living here. It is important to us that this community have the best possible medical technology available right on island, both for routine care and emergency situations. This new center will enable both a quick medical response and the comfort of family nearby–both of which are extremely important to recovery. This is better for our families, and better for Maui.”
“MMMC sees nearly 60,000 patients every year,” said MMMC Foundation Executive Director Lisa Varde. “This generous gift from the A&B Foundation directly affects all of us here on Maui. Our families, our friends, our neighbors – we all know someone who has been treated at MMMC.”
Look, $50,000 is a lot of dough to a hospital–so much so that I’d actually be surprised if MMMC was openly assisting Pang’s research. But matters as these are rarely so simple.
While I’m not suggesting that A&B Foundation’s recent grant to the hospital explains the medical facility’s hesitation to help Pang, I am suggesting that their reasons for not wanting to cooperate might be a bit more complex than they’ve let on.
Photo: Rob and Stephanie Levy/Wikimedia Commons