Hospitals full with non-COVID-19 patients as infection rate continues to rise

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — For the ninth straight day, the state has reported triple-digit COVID-19 cases.

On Friday, the state reported 233 new cases.

In two weeks the state went from 600 active cases to over 1,600.

“We are very, very concerned about the number of infections and the fact that they are staying up in that 200 plus range and no indication yet that the infection rates are going to go down,” said Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii president and CEO.  “It’s very, very possible that there will be a continued increase in hospitalizations, and the most frustrating thing about that is that 97 or 98% of these infections result in the hospitalizations that are entirely preventable.”

During the peak of last summer’s surge, there were 291 Covid patients in the hospital but hospitals were empty of other patients who postponed surgeries.

“A lot of people last year were avoiding hospitals for a variety of reasons,” Raethel explained. “People didn’t want to go into hospital. They would postponing scheduled surgeries and things like that so our overall hospital count was lower. While we had 291 COVID-19 patients in, it was on top of a lower number of general cases.”

“The total census now is higher than our total census last year when we’re at our peak, and that’s what is concerning. So, we have a record number of people in our hospitals right now, and I talk about that being in the duration of the pandemic.”

Raethel said there is enough PPE but staffing is an issue too.

“It’s a real challenge because our hospitals are already full,” he said. “Because COVID-19 patients require more care, there are a lot more precautions you have to take. But it’s time and effort and resources. The additional stress of dealing with an infectious patient puts on the staff because while most of our staff overwhelmingly are vaccinated, you still run the risk of getting infected. The more infected patients you’re exposed to, the more potential there is for staff, people, staff members, and all their families, their children, their kupuna to get infected as well.”

Hilo has seen an increase in cases over the past few weeks.

Doctors there say hospital rates have gone down, but do anticipate more patients in the coming weeks.

“The daily numbers we’re seeing right now is the same as we’re seeing back in August and September when things were going crazy,” explained Dr. Chad Shibuya. “We’re not admitting as many people, but we were admitting a fair number of people right now, and it’s taking its toll on our nurses, our doctors, and everybody involved.”

He said last summer there was enough capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.

“The difference now is life has gone on,” Dr. Chad Shibuya said. “The hospitals are busy again. Taking care of people who don’t have COVID-19. So now we have all these COVID-19 cases coming in, and it’s really stretching.”

“[Covid patients], they’re much sicker, they require so much more technical care,” he added. “They stay a really long time. The average length of stay for a regular hospital patient is three to four days, but we have COVID-19 patients still in the hospital over 70 days right now.”

He said patients are 30 to 50 years old and nearly all are unvaccinated.

“It’s sad because they’re young people with jobs, families, kids,” Dr. Shibuya added. “They’re super sick in the hospital now ,and who knows how long they might end up having to be here?”

“I respect people’s beliefs, but at the same time, I really wish they would consider getting vaccinated because it really does work,” he added.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said COVID-19 patients are isolated from non-COVID-19 patients, and people are tested before being admitted for surgery.

He said cases will continue to spread among the unvaccinated and more fatalities will be reported.

“These are just the realities of a very infectious Delta variant of COVID-19,” he said. “I haven’t heard too many tragic stories in the last 24 hours, but you’ll hear them in the coming weeks.”

“It’s frustrating because I know we could solve this problem in just a couple weeks if everyone who’s unvaccinated would get the shots, it would leave just that small percentage of people under age 12 in our society that can’t get vaccinated, but people have to make up their own minds. It does affect us all.”

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