Jeannie Kong, Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation Vice President

Article First Published May 30, 2015, By Joseph W. Bean, The Maui News,

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Even if you have been perfectly healthy lately, it’s almost certain that Maui Memorial Medical Center has been on your mind.  The news has been one business-of-medical-care emergency after another: one-year budget cut of $28 million, the urgent need for a new method of providing pediatric care, the possibility of stabilizing the hospital by way of a public-private partnership and more.  It would be natural to worry, but much less so if you know that MMMC has a small army of heroes dedicated to helping the hospital grow, improve and deliver the services we need in the best way possible.

That is the MMMC Foundation.  The president of the foundation board is David Jorgensen of the law firm Takitani, Agaran & Jorgensen, an affiliate member of the Realtors Association of Maui (RAM).  Two Realtors are also on the board: Helen MacArthur, principal broker at Destination Resorts Hawaii, and Foundation Vice President Jeannie Kong of Maui Real Estate Advisors.

Like many people involved in community service, Kong would be very busy without carving out time for MMMC.  In addition to her real estate business, she’s a mother of four.  How’s that for busy?

“I arrived on Maui in 1999,” she said.  “My fourth child was born here.  I want to praise the doctors, but also the incredibly dedicated nurses.  They do an amazing job!  My children, aged 14 to 22, have truly embraced the education, arts, sports and natural landscape of Maui.  They have been involved in wonderful programs such as Hawaii Youth Conservation Corp., tutoring programs for elementary school kids and more.  So, you can say they also inspire me to continue to be part of the solutions to the needs we have here on Maui.  Maui has so much to offer.”

That “so much” involves making time for hiking, nature and coastlines.

“Most of all,” Kong continued, “I treasure the people of Maui.”

The challenges facing MMMC are important to Kong.

“We have very competent leadership in our hospital that is seeking to find solutions,” she said.  “The hospital is at a very critical point.  It cannot continue to function at a deficit without that affecting the treatment and care, let along halting any future care services or facilities.  Putting our heads in the sand and saying we can operate the hospital with a continuing, compounding deficit is simply not a reality.  Something has to give, whether it be reduced medical care and therefore loss of jobs . . . or the hospital can explore an alternative approach – private partnership? – to funding the hospital.  So, MMMC leadership asked the legislature for the option to explore solutions.  Maui deserves the best health care, period!  The foundation’s goal is to ensure continued and improved level of service to our Maui community and its visitors. No one even mentions what kind of stress it would put on the Oahu health care system if we all had to go to Oahu for our medical care.  This is assuming we had the ‘luxury of time’ to go to Oahu for our health care, which creates additional stress, emotionally and financially, anyway.”

At this level of importance, everything demands innovative thinking.

“Well, our board is not only creative, but very passionate about supporting our hospital.  Our board is an active board.  We are a diverse group of Maui citizens sharing our knowledge and expertise.  It is an honor to be a part of that.  I would love to talk about our ‘next big thing,’ but at this point, we need to know the direction of our hospital, and then we can … adjust.  However, the ongoing requests from the hospital to support its needs and wants are always being reviewed with the intention to grant those requests if at all possible.”

After a few years of cliffhangers and disappointments, a campaign supported by the MMMC Foundation, the Hawaii legislative delegation from Maui and countless citizen supporters finally succeeded on May 1, just a few working days before the close of the legislative session.  MMMC now has the option to negotiate a public-private partnership, often called “The best bet for a secure future.”

When Kong mentioned “adjusting,” this was what she hoped the hospital and foundation would be “adjusting” to.

“I highly encourage people – full-time or part-time residents,” Kong said, “get involved in whatever community organizations their hearts feel compelled to help.  It is not only rewarding, but you meet great people, too!  If people want to lean more and help Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation, then go to our website”