Hawaii’s Struggle To Provide Health Care For Rural Islands Nearly Turned Tragic For This Expectant Mom

For months the fragility of a vital air link endangered the health of people across rural Hawaii. The state is still trying to fix it.

Kristen Bettencourt-Pedro bolted awake at 2:30 a.m. and felt her water break. It was Feb. 6, almost five weeks before her baby’s due date. 

In most circumstances, a woman in premature labor would rush by car to the nearest hospital, where medical staff would try to suppress labor or, if it couldn’t be stopped, get ready to deliver the baby.

But Bettencourt-Pedro, 34, lives on Molokai, where women with complicated pregnancies must board a plane in order to give birth under the care of a doctor.

The island’s lone hospital doesn’t perform cesarean sections and it prohibits vaginal births for mothers like Bettencourt-Pedro who have a prior history of C-sections. Women who give birth at the 15-bed Molokai General Hospital sign up for an unmedicated delivery with little access to medical interventions if things go awry.

It was just before 3 a.m. when Bettencourt-Pedro’s husband whisked her out of his truck and into the hospital’s fluorescent-lit birthing room. Medical staff ordered an air ambulance to transport her to Oahu while a nurse gave her drugs to slow or stop her body from trying to push the baby out. 

Hawaii Life Flight has been providing air medical transportation in Hawaii since 2010. The company operates seven bases on five islands. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Her contractions did not let up. And the state’s only air ambulance company had two other patients to move that morning before it could point a helicopter toward Molokai, just 26 miles southeast of the Honolulu medical hub.

Hours passed and, by dawn, still no air ambulance had arrived. The nurses tried to assure Bettencourt-Pedro that if worst came to worst she could push the baby out with the assistance of a midwife. But she remembers thinking she was going to die.

“It was scary,” she said. “I felt like I wasn’t being treated like a priority.”

Hawaii has one air ambulance provider: Hawaii Life Flight. The private company usually operates seven fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter, responding to an average of five to eight calls a day.

But its capacity buckled last year on Dec. 15, when one of its planes crashed in the ocean, killing a pilot, flight nurse and paramedic. The company grounded its aircraft on every island except

Read More

Brown med university students elevate health treatment for Rhode Island’s underserved and underinsured

The women’s clinic at Clínica Esperanza is held every other Wednesday night. Satish is there, each and every time, typically being late to clean up up and wipe down test tables.

“Spending time at the clinic is the highlight of my month,” Satish claimed — even when the atmosphere is active and bordering on chaotic. “After currently being there, I really feel re-energized. I seriously do adore it.”

As part of a assistance necessity, the Warren Alpert Professional medical University learners asks all first- and next-12 months pupils to engage with the group through volunteering for at minimum four hours all through every of their first 3 semesters. The volunteer courses at Clínica Esperanza, as well as at the Rhode Island No cost Clinic, catch the attention of between 75 and 100 professional medical college students each year — pupils like Satish, who considerably surpass the prerequisites, put in additional hours (and more semesters – quite a few volunteers are in their 3rd or fourth calendar year), and grow the parameters of their roles. They carry a collaborative spirit and the power to catalyze improve. They not only want to aid care for clients, but to also make improvements to the whole health treatment process.

The health care learners who help at Clínica Esperanza are referred to by the small personnel there as “Clínica friends.”

“We also phone them ‘gold,’” mentioned Morgan Leonard, director of operations at the clinic. “They’re priceless. Their altruism is what would make this doable.”

Functioning with the community, for the local community

Not significantly from Clínica Esperanza in the city’s Olneyville community is the Rhode Island Free of charge Clinic, at 655 Broad St., which furthermore serves the countless numbers of low-cash flow patients who are not suitable for any kind of health coverage, generally simply because they do not gain sufficient income to shell out for coverage or due to the fact of their immigration status. Two evenings a month, the No cost Clinic hosts a university student clinic—a little, focused clinic-within-a-clinic— staffed and run by Warren Alpert Healthcare University learners. Their house base is a neighborhood useful resource area, but scholar volunteers are granted full use of the expansive facilities.

Through clinic hours, visitors arrive at the 3rd flooring, get a temperature verify and COVID-19 screening, and verify in with a receptionist. The waiting around area is spacious and peaceful, and the halls

Read More