- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) - Hawaii health officials are urging some Big Island residents living amid an approaching lava flow to relocate if they depend on medical treatment.

Lower Puna residents who receive oxygen, dialysis treatment and other recurring health care must consider the possibility that medical services will be limited or cut off if lava crosses Highway 130, State Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo said.

Scientists estimate that the lava could reach the town of Pahoa in about two weeks if it continues advancing at about 400 feet per day. County officials say the lava doesn’t yet pose an immediate threat, but plans are underway for alternate routes, a temporary school site and other contingencies if Highway 130 becomes covered with lava.

The Puna Community Medical Center hopes to set up a clinic on the other side of the lava flow, but the facility will require more workers and funding, Hawaii News Now (https://ow.ly/Csbos) reported.

“We’re not going to do this without assistance. We have small pockets,” said Dan Domizio, the center’s clinical programs director. “Puna Community Medical Center can afford to put some of this up-front, but we’d have to get reimbursed in order to survive.”

He said it would be helpful for vulnerable patients to move away, but there is a lack of alternate housing since many others have opted to move away from the lava flow’s path.

“There are people who want to take it seriously, but where are they going to live?” he said. “Try finding an apartment now in Hilo. I mean, it’s impossible.”

The health department is working with the county to reach out to patients who are at risk.

“Certainly, government can make contingency plans for those people who are at risk, but we need people to take personal responsibility,” Okubo said. “We won’t be able to help every single person out there.”

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Information from: KGMB-TV, https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/

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