HONOLULU (KHON2) — More than 300 COVID patients are hospitalized on Oahu with 60 of those in intensive care units. Hospitals continue operating beyond capacity with many staff working double shifts as travel clinicians prepare to bring relief this week.

An internal state of emergency declared by the Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu has been mitigated, but hospitals and staff are still overwhelmed by the number of patients they continue to see.

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The city’s Emergency Medical Services responded with staff and resources, and ambulances continue on re-route to prevent overwhelming a particular hospital.

Although, the city’s Emergency Services Department Director Dr. Jim Ireland said medical facilities are not in the clear yet.

“At some point very, very soon, none of these hospitals will have physical space to take care of these patients,” Dr. Ireland said. “And so then you look at how can you take care of them. You know, kind of outside the norm, in cafeterias, or in tent or in make shift hospitals.”

No one knows more about the stress than front line medical workers. The Hawaii Nurses Association President Daniel Ross said staffing levels remain thin, and more nurses are pivoting to treat COVID patients.

Ross said, “Those nurses that have been working day in and day out for the past year and a half, two years. They are fried. They are burnt out. They need relief.” 

Hospitals such as Queen’s Medical Center are offering incentives for nurses to pick-up extra shifts as facilities train travel nurses to begin seeing patients this week.

“They’ll be up seeing patients by Thursday,” Queen’s Health Systems CEO Dr. Jill Green said. “And what we’ll do initially is give relief to the existing clinicians, many who have been doing double shifts for week, after week during the last three to four weeks. We also expect that it should be able to increase the capacity.”

Travel clinicians have already started working to support smaller hospitals in neighbor islands. This time it will be Oahu’s nurses who will get some needed relief.

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Ross said, “We’re hopeful that that will take some of the stressors off of the staff and give them a breathing space.”