Kahuku Health Cen­ter Handy To Hun­dreds Of Cam­pus Pa­tients

MidWeek Islander (Windward Oahu) - - Windward Oahu Islander -

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.

Run in part­ner­ship with the non­profit Koolauloa Health Cen­ter and its staff — af­ter a decade of plan­ning — the school boasts 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 clinic 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 be­cause of an in­abil­ity to pay. Parental con­sent is re­quired be­fore chil­dren can re­ceive ser­vices.

On aver­age, 35 stu­dents seek help at the cen­ter daily, Iloa said. Den­tal ser­vices in­clude clean­ings, X-rays, fill­ings and flu­o­ride treat­ments. Be­fore KHC opened, she said there were few den­tists’ of­fices within the 30-mile stretch from Shark’s Cove to Kualoa, and sick or in­jured teens had to leave cam­pus. They would miss in­struc­tional time while their par­ents lost work hours.

Now there’s on-site care for se­ri­ous and on­go­ing con­di­tions such as in­fec­tions, 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., The cen­ter also pro­motes healthy life­styles and runs work­shops on 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, go­ing 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 ba­sic care to the ru­ral area. It also op­er­ates two com­mu­nity well­ness clin­ics — at Hau­ula Kai Shop­ping Cen­ter and near Kahuku Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

Tupola said they hope to ex­pand ser­vice to school fac­ulty and are work­ing to com­plete fund­ing for a den­tal van. Staff some­times must dou­ble book for den­tal ap­point­ments, she noted, “es­pe­cially if a stu­dent has a test that day.”

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

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