- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - A proposal aimed at cutting emergency room costs for treating homeless people would cost the state $1.4 million each year to operate two mobile medical clinics.

Lawmakers voted unanimously Friday to move forward on the bill introduced by state Sen. Josh Green, reported The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/2kOcbyX ).

The proposal calls for two mobile clinics that would operate primarily on Oahu, with a driver, doctor, nurse and psychiatrist onboard.

Green, an emergency room doctor, said he would volunteer for shifts on the vans and recruit other doctors, nurses and health care students to help treat patients.

Green said the vans will cost less than treating the state’s homeless residents at hospitals.

“This is an attempt to address the nexus between homelessness and the intense pressure that it’s putting on downtown and across the state so we can get people care in a much, much, much, much more affordable setting,” Green said. “We could do it 20 times cheaper.”

Oahu’s Queens Medical Center faces $90 million in costs each year to treat homeless people while receiving little reimbursement from the federal government, according to Green.

“Our acute-care hospitals are spending tens of millions of dollars over and above what they’re being reimbursed for,” he said. “This is going to be a high priority.”

Green estimates it would cost $500,000 to purchase and outfit each medical vehicle and $1.4 million annually for operating costs.

The legislation comes after Waikiki Health lost its state contract to provide homeless services, which will result in the medical service provider ending its use of mobile medical clinics. Waikiki Health’s two Care-A-Vans, a van and a car, provide a wide range of services, from first aid to long-term health care.

Waikiki Health CEO Sheila Beckham said the organization’s drop-in center in the Honolulu area continues to offer medical and other homeless services.

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