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**HHSC - A Brief History


A Brief History


The Beginning, Expanding, and Evolving

The Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) is a unique organization.  In very few other locales is the State the principal provider of primary medical care to its citizens.

The evolution of this corporation began pre-statehood when the major activities of the Neighbor Islands centered around the sugar and pineapple plantations, which in each county was responsible for providing medical care to its residents.  The counties did this with a wide variety of facilities.  Many were built by the counties themselves as tuberculosis “sanitariums”.  Other facilities were turned over to the counties as the plantations closed or reduced production.  During the years 1950 to 1965, the cost of this care grew to the point where the individual counties could no longer afford it.  It was at this point that the State began to give small subsidies and grants to the different counties. 

A series of legislative actions began which expanded the role of the State to where it stands today.  In 1965, the county public hospitals officially became a state responsibility.  However, the counties still ran the facilities with very limited state leadership or control.  Then in 1967, the State, through the Department of Health (DOH), began the transition from county management to full state control.  The County-State Hospital division was managed and, thus, it became a growing burden on the general revenue taxes.

Many governmental and private studies were conducted over the years after the state assumed responsibility for this system.  Virtually all of the studies undertaken concluded that significant organizational and structural reform was necessary if the system was to ever operate efficiently and effectively.  All of these studies concluded that major change was necessary if the system was ever going to be able to both respond to the rapidly changing national and state health marketplace while, at the same time, ensure that the system would be able to continue to carry out its important patient care and community services mission.

In 1994, Governor Benjamin Cayetano initiated a “Blue Ribbon” Task Force to create a new and more autonomous “agency”, a public benefit corporation, as the prescription for needed reform.  The task force was led by Larry Gage, esq., president, National Association of Public Hospitals, and it included many representatives from the Hawaii health care, labor, and business communities.

Based upon the recommendations of this “Blue Ribbon” Task Force and with the support of the governor, the Legislature passed the landmark Act 262 in the 1996 legislative session, formally creating the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation with an effective date of July 1, 1996.  In November of 1996, the DOH transferred the liabilities and assets to the new Corporation Board of Directors who were appointed by the governor.  The 13-member board of directors was responsible for developing policies, procedures, and rules necessary to plan, operate, and manage the hospitals.  The joint conference, quality improvement, personnel and compensation, and finance and information systems committees were formed during November 1996.

It was understood at the time Act 262 was signed into law that operation of the HHSC facilities would continue to require state funding support.  A number of the 12 facilities are located in remote, rural, and low-populated areas with insufficient business to support their high costs of operation.  These facilities were referred to as “safety-net” facilities because they are often the only alternative for the delivery of medical care in their respective geographic area and they served everyone in need of medical attention regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

Initial corporate management was provided by select individuals serving in “acting” positions.  In August 1997, Thomas M. Driskill, Jr., was named President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).  Subsequently, the CEO hired and organized the primary corporate staff, established the Corporate Office at Leahi Hospital on Oahu, and filled key vacancies in hospital leadership positions.

During the summer of 1998, the hospital system was reorganized, based on the regionalization concept.  The basic, underlying premise for regionalization was to provide each of the five regions with shared-services support for its respective facilities, yet encourage hospitals within a region to work closer together in a collaborative fashion to provide integrated community care.  During the summer of 1998, through the generosity of the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation, HHSC developed a full-motion video teleconferencing system that linked up all 12 HHSC facilities with the University of Hawaii, all other hospital systems in Hawaii, and other national and international organizations.

On October 21, 1999, the Hawaii Health Systems Foundation (HHSF) was established.  HHSF, a wholly-owned subsidiary of HHSC, was organized to raise funds and obtain gifts and grants for the entire HHSC system, in addition to assisting HHSC facilities interested in developing their own foundations.

On June 21, 2000, Ali’i Community Care, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of HHSC, was incorporated to build and operate a series of state-of-the-art assisted living facilities throughout the state of Hawaii.  Groundbreaking for Roselani Place took place on October 26, 2000, on the island of Maui.

In response to the unique health care challenges being faced by the regions,  the Legislature, in 2007, passed Act  290 (Session Laws of Hawaii), which enabled the five HHSC regions to establish their own governance, thereby  creating five regional health systems and boards of directors, including a corporate board.

In 2009, the Legislature passed Act 182 (Session Laws of Hawaii), in an effort to  strengthen the viability of the public hospital system through organizational and operational changes, in addition to providing the regions with authority to transition into various legal entities.

In 2011, the Legislature passed Act 126 (Session Laws of Hawaii), introduced through the Abercrombie administration, which was focused on the corporate board of directors: 1) restored the voting right to the director of health; 2) added an at-large member appointed by the governor; and 3) retained the regional chief executive officers.

Subsequently, in 2013, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law Act 278 (Session Laws of Hawaii), which again was focused on the corporate board of directors:  1) changed the five regional chief executive officers status to ex-officio, nonvoting members; and 2) added five regional system board members appointed by the governor to serve as voting members.

Thanks to the tremendous support from our Boards of Directors (Regional and Corporate levels), Medical Staffs, employees, labor partners, the Legislature, governor, and communities, HHSC has been able to move forward as a health care leader in the state of Hawaii.  At the same time, in light of the significant economic challenges and ever-changing health care environment that hospital systems are facing today, HHSC needs to aggressively develop effective future and collaborative planning that will enable its facilities to continue providing quality, accessible health care to our island communities.



HHSC is the largest provider of healthcare in the Islands, other than on Oahu and Molokai, and is the only acute care provider on the islands of Maui and Lanai. HHSC is the "Safety Net" for Neighbor Island Acute Care and the "Safety Net" for Long-Term Care (LTC) in the state of Hawaii. The system operates 1,275 licensed beds in facilities located on five different islands. In Fiscal Year 2013 HHSC hospitals provided a total of 21,984 acute care admissions and 78,216 acute care patient days; 1,240 long-term care admissions, 190,951 long-term care patient days; 3,560 babies born and 104,156 emergency room visits.   A total of 1253 licensed acute and long-term care beds are operated in HHSC regions and twelve facilities. 

The mission of HHSC is to provide and enhance accessible, comprehensive healthcare services that are quality-driven, customer-focused, and cost-effective. The vision of HHSC is to be the provider of choice for the communities it serves, employer of choice for its staff, and system of choice for its physicians. To further the development of its delivery system, HHSC works closely with physician organizations and other healthcare providers in the planning and implementation of joint business strategies. Physicians, community leaders, and employee representatives are involved in local as well as corporate decision-making. Most of the facilities have affiliated nonprofit fundraising foundations that provide the communities an opportunity to convey financial gifts to their local hospitals.


HHSC Regions

*HHSC's nonprofit 501(c)(3) affiliates

East Hawaii

Hilo Medical Center

Hale Ho'ola Hamakua

Ka'u Hospital

Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home


West Hawaii

Kona Community Hospital

Kohala Hospital

Ali'i Community Care dba Ali'i Health Center*



West Kauai Medical Center (Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital & Medical


Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital



Maui Memorial Medical Center

Kula Hospital

Lanai Community Hospital

Ali'i Community Care dba Roselani Place*



Leahi Hospital


Kahuku Medical Center*

HHSC Corporate Office

Hawaii Health Systems Foundation*


HHSC has 3,892 (full-time equivalent) employees. Over 89 percent of the employees are represented by 1 of 2 unions and are divided into 7 collective bargaining units. The two collective bargaining representatives are United Public Workers and the Hawaii Government Employees Association.  Since HHSC is a public agency, its employees are provided the same the benefits, rights, and privileges of those of other state agencies. The membership of the collective bargaining units also includes employees from other state agencies.  There are close to 1000-plus physicians affiliated with HHSC facilities. 


State Funding

HHSC continues to depend on appropriations for the provision of mandated services and some capital improvement projects from the state general fund through the Legislature. Most recent general fund support amounted to approximately 20 percent of the $550M HHSC FY13 operating budget.


Board of Directors

As prescribed by Act 278 (2013), the HHSC Corporate Board of Directors consists of 18 members, including the state Director of Health (officio, voting status), the at-large member appointed by the Governor, the five regional chief executive officers (ex-officio), two members from each of 5 geographic regions (one of whom is appointed by the respective Regional System Board and the other by the Governor), and one additional member appointed by the Maui Regional board.


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