Hospitals preparing for potential surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations during holiday season


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hospital officials say that they are expecting another surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the next few months.

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“We absolutely expect that there will be a third wave,” said Healthcare Association of Hawaii President Hilton Raethel.

Raethel said that they expect a bump in COVID-19 cases after Oct. 12, when public schools return to blended learning, and after Oct. 15, when the state’s pre-travel testing program beings.

“So, any impact would probably not begin to pick up until maybe a month later … actually, getting toward more Thanksgiving is when we would tend to get an uptick,” said Raethel.

He said that they have been preparing in the meantime. They also called in additional staff from out-of-state. One-hundred and forty additional nurses arrived in the state to start working at ten hospitals across the state. Raethel said that an additional hundred staff will be coming in by the end of October.

“With these additional staff that we’re bringing into the state, that means that we will have additional capacity in terms of staffing above and beyond what we were able to handle in our last surge,” said Raethel.

Hawaii Pacific Health said that so far, they’ve added eight to ten critical health nurses.

“The likelihood is we will need that many, maybe a few more,” said Dr. Melinda Ashton, who is the Hawaii Pacific Health Chief Quality Officer. “It’s because of the uncertainty of the flu season, that would make it that much bigger and much more difficult.”

Queen’s Medical Center also has been preparing for the surge, having created additional space in the hospital for COVID-19 patients. After months, construction was completed on its new infectious disease unit. The unit houses 24 patient rooms with negative pressure technology and continuous UV disinfection capability. The unit is planned to open on Oct. 5.

“It’s just critical we have expanded capacity for ICU beds. We have the environment that is really cleaning the rooms constantly to make sure that everything is ideal for our caregivers,” Queen’s Medical Center President and Chief Operating Officer Jason Chang.

Raethel said that the Healthcare Association of Hawaii will be watching the COVID-19 numbers closely. They are asking people to continue to take precautions throughout the holiday season to keep COVID-19 cases low.

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