Hawaii Medical Center East officially closed Thursday, shutting down the Liver Center, a clinic that provided life-sustaining treatments for many patients with cirrhosis, Hepatitis and liver cancer.
State senator Josh Green, also a medical doctor, chaired a briefing at the capitol to find out what will happen to liver patients in Hawaii.
"If they don't have care, patients with liver disease can die," Green warned.
The senate committee on health heard testimony from health care providers and officials from the Hawaii Health Care Association, Queen's Medical Center and the Hepatitis Support Network of Hawaii.
"When you have a precipitous closing of a facility it's really scary. So people who have needs every week, they can't wait for three weeks or a month to get a new referral," Green said.
Some liver patients were terrified at the prospect of reduced care.
"We don't want them to be scared. We're trying to put everything in place so they aren't scared. There is continued care," said Marsha Joyner of the Hepatitis Support Network of Hawaii.
The state's leading liver specialist, Dr. Naoky Tsai, is still seeing patients. Officials at Queen's Medical Center testified they hope to open a new liver clinic by this summer, but said getting federal approval and clearances for Medicare and Medicaid could take months.
The closing of Hawaii Medical center also means some transplant patients, including children who need bone marrow transplants, will have to go to the mainland. Sen. Green said state lawmakers and U.S. Senator Dan Inouye are working to streamline approvals needed to get liver care facilities up and running at full speed in Hawaii.