Public Health & Disease Prevention
COVID-19 (known also as coronavirus) first emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has since become a global pandemic. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other medical authorities from around the world are now doing their part to contain the disease. However, if history serves as a guide, the coronavirus outbreak will not be the last one Hawai`i faces.
With our international status as a major tourism destination, it is critical that our government take proactive steps in the wake of an epidemic to ensure that Hawai`i’s people are protected.
Here is my plan on health and disease prevention:
Increase investment in public hospitals to ensure that all hospitals have the proper technology to screen for diseases, and not deny anyone who wants to get tested.
Ensure that the appropriate funds and technology are allocated to protecting underserved communities.
Paid sick leave and job protection.
Boost our local medical workforce and, in the interim, attract mainland and international doctors to come to Hawaii.
Fund proper public awareness for full transparency and fight misinformation.
At the beginning of March, the Hawai`i Department of Health (DOH) faced criticism when they denied testing to residents who showed signs for COVID-19. That is inexcusable. We need to increase investment in our public hospitals, ensure that all hospitals have the proper technology to screen for diseases, and not deny anyone who wants to get tested. We cannot expect ourselves to prevent the spread of diseases if we have hospitals which cannot meet these basic expectations. Nor can we allow ourselves to turn people away when they believe they should get tested. No matter the cost, every county needs at least one hospital with the technology required to test individuals when a new disease arises.
In addition, I will advocate for temperature screenings for anyone entering Hawai`i via harbor or airport the minute an epidemic emerges. In the Pacific, Taiwan and other areas have taken this first step to combat coronavirus, and they have out-performed other countries in terms of containing the pandemic.
We then need to ensure that the right funds and technology go towards protecting underserved communities. Under my plan, the state will invest in screening underserved communities to ensure that they do not have the disease, and to treat it if they do. I believe that no one should be denied services simply because of their income.
Studies show that underserved communities are more prone to getting infected by communicable diseases. Ignoring the health of our underserved communities will make containing the diseases much harder for everyone. Simple steps such as upgraded mobile clinics will combat the spread of a disease within urban communities like our own.
Over 98 countries currently require paid sick leave, and it seems to work. I will support paid sick leave and job protection so that no one feels obligated to attend work when they are sick and transmit a virus to anyone else. Many working families often go to work sick because they fear that they may lose their job if they miss a certain amount of days. I will support paid sick leave so that workers will get the proper rest they need to recover while ensuring that their position is safe.
According to the University of Hawaii, Hawaii had a net gain of 47 doctors in 2019. Despite this gain, our aging population only increases the demand for doctors. I will support any initiative to boost our local medical workforce and, in the interim, attract mainland and international doctors to come to Hawaii. With our doctor shortage, patients--especially our Kupuna--face long wait times, difficulty scheduling appointments & important surgeries, and are sometimes forced to travel outside Hawai`i to receive medical treatment.
It is crucial that we start incentivizing doctors to practice here in Hawai`i. We can do this by lowering the cost of living by investing in housing, allocate funds at the medical centers to open up more positions for resident doctors, and increase the University of Hawai`i’s capacity to train doctors.
Finally, the worst thing we can do is fuel panic and through the spread of rumors and misinformation. Through the DOH, we will fund proper public awareness for full transparency and fight misinformation. For full transparency, the public should be aware when a new disease enters Hawaii, along with all forms of disease prevention and what the government is doing to prevent its spread. When the coronavirus started, there were online rumors that drinking bleach would prevent one from getting the virus. That is false. My plan would ensure that the DOH and the CDC work together to fight false information and provide full transparency to the public.
If recent events teach us anything, it is that we must take proactive steps to protect the well-being of our community. Our community must learn from recent mistakes so that Hawai`i is prepared when the next public health crisis hits.