As COVID-19 cases rise, Queen’s Medical Center asks FEMA for more nurses

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — There are currently 45 COVID cases at three Queen’s hospitals. That is about a third of all the hospital cases in the state.

Officials have already asked the federal government for help and are now considering only allowing vaccinated visitors.

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Queen’s has already asked FEMA to send more nurses because staff is overworked. Restrictions are also being considered such as holding off on certain elective surgeries that require hospitalization.

Officials say the admission rate right now is the same as last summer, and they want to avoid a situation in which the hospitals are near capacity. It’s best to start taking precautions sooner than later.

“It’s going to come down to capacity ICU capacity and then hospital bed capacity,” said Jason Chang, president at Queen’s Medical Center. “So as numbers go up, we’ll have to make decisions along the way, making sure we have access for the sick patients that absolutely need our care.”

Queen’s is only allowing one visitor per patient right now. Chang says if COVID-19 numbers keep rising, the hospital might have to allow only vaccinated visitors.

“That’s one of the considerations. Vaccinated visitors only makes sense especially if we start seeing more community spread cause we’re trying to protect our caregivers and our patients,” said Chang.

He adds that they’re seeing younger COVID-19 patients with the average age in their early 40’s. Last year, the average age was over 65. Queen’s is asking FEMA for 80 nurses at first and hoping for an additional 50 as a second wave. They would all be coming from the mainland and Chang admits it might be hard because much of the country is going through a surge.

According to the Hawaii Department of Health, Oahu and the Big Island have seen the biggest surges. In the past 14 days on Oahu, Waianae reported 177 cases, Kapolei reported 128 cases, Wahiawa reported 105 cases. The vaccination rate in those areas are 35 percent or less.

On the Big Island, Kailua-Kona and Hilo each reported 130 cases in the past 14 days but their vaccination rates are considerably higher. DOH Director Dr. Libby Char points out that within any zip code there are pockets of unvaccinated people, which are probably where the surges are happening.

“So the overall zip code area gets color coded on our website maps. But there can be pockets within that zip code that are very susceptible to getting infected,” said Char.

As for the hospitalization, three weeks ago Queen’s had 10 COVID-19 cases. It has jumped to 45, eight of them are on intensive care and on ventilators.

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