Hawaii hospital capacity in question with shortage of workers, new COVID anti-viral pills


(HONOLULU) KHON2 — For the first time since early October 2021, Hawaii’s hospitalizations have topped 200 as the omicron surge continues across the state and things could be getting much worse, according to COVID forecasts.

As of Tuesday, Jan. 4, there were about 335 total available hospital beds in Hawaii with 201 COVID patients hospitalized; less of them are spending time in the ICU as the omicron variant has proven to be less severe than delta.

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“During the delta surge, we were seeing approximately 20 to 30% of the COVID hospitalizations ending up in the ICU. During this surge, we’re looking at a much larger percentage — roughly 10, 11 12%,” explained Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii President and CEO said.

Still, with the sheer volume of omicron cases in the islands, Hawaii’s hospitals may be in danger of overcrowding. According to the Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling Group (HiPAM), Oahu is projected to have a daily peak of more than 900 hospitalizations toward the end of January.

“We still have the capability to reach 400, 500, maybe 900 active hospitalizations,” HiPAM epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Lee said.

That variance depends on our behavior and what part of the population gets infected with the coronavirus.

“We have an older population. We have a population that has one or more co-morbidities, which we know tend to put individuals at a greater risk for hospitalization,” Dr. Lee added.

If hospitals were to become overcrowded, staffing could become an issue. The state’s request for 900 FEMA workers to help surge capacity has yet to be approved.

“Because of the widespread incidence of omicron across the state, across the nation, that is also impacting healthcare workers and reducing the pool of healthcare workers,” Raethel said.

New anti-viral treatments from Merck and Pfizer are also in short supply.

“We literally only have a few hundred pills allocated each week to Hawaii. And when you’re having many, many, multiple hundreds of thousands of infections a day, that’s not enough of those to go around,” Raethel continued.

The Kona Community Hospital also announced Wednesday that it will not offer the monoclonal antibody treatment REGEN-COV because it does not help against omicron.

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“Some of the treatments we were using are not effective against omicron, but we do have some infusion therapy that we can provide to patients,” Raethel said.

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