COVID cases rise faster than the number of available staff at Queen’s Health System locations


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Queen’s Health Systems declared an internal state of emergency again — this time at their Punchbowl location.

On Monday, Jan. 10, the Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu declared a state of emergency as hospital and emergency room visits are outpacing the number of available staff.

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Currently, there are 331 positive COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Hawaii. Meanwhile, Queen’s said more than 800 of their caregivers are out of work after testing positive for coronavirus or becoming a close contact.

“To address staffing shortages and ensure we provide adequate care, we have contracted with qualified traveling nurses and community-based ancillary staff,” Queen’s Health Systems said in a statement.

It is a similar problem at Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, which is shifting staff around to keep essential operations like the emergency department open.

“We’re having great concern for our workforce. I think, like all health care facilities on island, we are certainly experiencing a huge workforce shortage. Currently, as of today, about 10 to 15% of our total workforce is out, either due to COVID infection or exposure,” Jacob Schafer, Director of Infection Control at Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.

Long-term care facilities are also operating in outbreak mode — and that’s causing a backlog of patients at hospitals. It’s happening at Hilo Medical Center’s Emergency Department with long waits for an available bed.

“What’s happening is the patients that are supposed to go to continue on their medical care at long term care facilities, they’re actually stuck in our hospital. So that’s also causing a backlog of patient flow. When that happens, we have holds in the emergency department, that of patients who are waiting to go upstairs into a bed.”

Elena Cabatu, spokesperson for the Hilo Medical Center

For now, many providers are asking patients to consider using telehealth services.

“We’ve often shifted to a telehealth model for patients that can do a telehealth appointment in order to reduce the amount of patient traffic that we have in our clinics,” Shafer said.

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

The state is still working on 700 FEMA nurses to come in and provide relief. Queen’s added that although they have a shortage, they are not shutting down.

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