Health officials look to field hospitals as potential relief amid surging COVID hospitalizations


HONOLULU (KHON2) — COVID-19 hospitalizations hit another record high in Hawaii on Wednesday, Aug. 25, with 413 patients admitted to facilities statewide.

Health officials are now looking at field hospitals as another option of relief amid the COVID surge.

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According to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, 247 out of the 340 ICU beds are being used as of Wednesday, with 87 of those COVID-related.

“We are now at about 120 percent capacity for our intensive care units and our hospitals in general, for staffing,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green, Hawaii’s COVID-19 healthcare liaison. “There’s so much COVID right now, of course, we’re worried.”

Emergency Medical Services already have supplies ready to roll out field hospitals. Green said these mobile facilities would be equipped with beds, air conditioning and medical supplies. They would also be able to service about 50 low-impact COVID patients each.

“It’s kind of like observation at some of our critical access hospitals. You just keep an eye on somebody for a little bit and because a lot of people are younger and they feeling terrible, but they’re not so sick they have to go into the hospital. That can help,” Green said.

Travel relief nurses would be assigned to man these sites.

“We do have staff coming into the state, we had 46 arrive last week, we had 200 arrive this week,” said Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii president. “We have approximately an additional 300 arriving this weekend.”

Green said previous plans like using the Hawaii Convention Center or Blaisdell Arena are costly and only necessary if hospitalizations climb to the thousands. These field hospitals would set up on or near facility grounds.

“It’s much easier to actually provide these services on the campus of an existing facility. So we could for example, take over parking space, parking lots or parks that are adjacent to a hospital,” Raethel said.

While hospitals are at sufficient capacity right now, Green predicts another 270 patients will need emergency care in the coming weeks. Tha will be a telling sign if extra resources will be needed.

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