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Bill to charter Flights for Rural island Residents’ Medical needs moves forward

HONOLULU (KHON2) – Residents of Lanai and Molokai said that they frequently had to deal with canceled and delayed flights when attempting to go to their doctor’s appointments. A measure to address that is currently making its way through the state legislature.

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Beating breast cancer has not been easy for this Molokai resident, from receiving her diagnosis to needing to drive to and from Oahu for chemotherapy visits and navigating traffic jams in between.

“We waited for a few hours before they informed us that the flight had been canceled,” Molokai resident and breast cancer survivor Kaira Kaina recounted.

Because there is only one airline that serves Molokai and Lanai, Kaina is forced to postpone her chemotherapy sessions on a regular basis.

“We had to return home, and I had to inform insurance, physicians, and all those significant individuals who were making my reservations,” Kaina remarked.

Not just Kaina is experiencing the effects.

The president of Molokai Drugs, Inc., Kimberly Svetin, stated, “We’re losing a lot of our patients, not just by death but by relocating out of state for medical.” “My age group friends are moving their parents to the mainland.”

Mahina Poepoe, a state representative, is looking for a solution. She proposed a measure to establish a two-year pilot program at the Department of Health that would allow caretakers and inhabitants of remote islands to charter planes for medical appointments.

This would enable insurance firms to book and pay for tickets on flights, much like the present procedures. To better align appointment schedules with travel timings, the DOH will confer with schedulers and insurers.

The goal is to give those who are looking for non-emergency medical travel more stability and reliability, according to Representative Mahina Poepoe (D) of Molokai, Lanai, Kahului, and Haiku.

Rep. Lisa Marten (D), the chair of the House Committee on Human Services, stated, “To have like we have appointments Tuesday and Fridays or whatever it is and everyone does them on the same day on purpose and that could guarantee the airline some critical mass to allow them to fly their regular rate without having taxpayers pay a premium.”

Numerous testimonies have been filed in favor of the measure. According to the DOH, this would be a comprehensive program requiring specialists from the aviation sector. Residents on rural islands hope that this measure will be passed.

“We need that, so I think it would be really beneficial and dependable,” Kaina remarked.

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