ICU beds full heading into holiday weekend, COVID senate committee says health director needs to utilize more power

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Senate Committee on COVID-19 reconvened on Friday and health officials provided a grim update.

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii said there are 223 licensed adult intensive care unit beds in the state, and as of Friday, there were 224 ICU patients.

“The most critical breaking point or failure point that I see right now is our ICU capacity,” explained Hawaii Healthcare Association CEO Hilton Raethel. “So, we’re getting close to not being able to provide ICU care for all patients needing it which means some patients will not get the optimal level of care to maintain health and potentially life.”

“As of today Hilo Medical Center, Queen’s Punchbowl, Castle, Wahiawa, Pali Momi, and Kuakini are above licensed ICU bed capacity, and two additional hospitals are at capacity,” Raethel explained.

“That means every hospital on Oahu with ICU beds except for Tripler and Kapiolani is at or over their ICU capacity before we even get into this long weekend,” Raethel continued, as senators gasped in the background.

Raethel said the forecast models show no signs of improving in September.

Senators asked health officials why more wasn’t done ahead of the three-day weekend.

“We’ve been advocating for that for quite some time and saying from a public health standpoint we absolutely supported further restrictions,” said Dr. Libby Char, state health director. “Delta has been a complete game-changer.”

“At what point do you as director of health say ‘Ok, we’ve allowed the counties flexibility to come up with tier systems. We’re at a critical stage. I’m the health director. This is what we’re going to impose,” said Senator Donovan Dela Cruz. “If it’s as bad as we’ve discussed but we don’t have a tier system and no restrictions attached, I think that’s where we’re finding it difficult to reconcile.”

“Can we expect to have more restrictions today at the [Governor and Mayor] press conference?” Senator Donna Mercado Kim asked.

“I don’t know,” Dr. Char said. “You don’t know? So they’re not keeping you in the loop, okay thank you,” Mercado Kim replied.

“I’d be more than happy to help the counties if they wanted to draft another round of tiers, we’re having meetings now but obviously I’m here, but they’re having discussions now,” explained Dr. Char.

Senators said a tier system should be put back in place so the public understands there are trigger points and restrictions will be implemented if the situation gets worse.

They told Dr. Char she has the power to do more as the state health director.

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“You have the power according to our statute so hopefully you’ll look at that and how you can protect the community and fortunately it doesn’t anticipate economic issues that’s obviously with the governor and the mayors, but you are responsible for the health and welfare of our state,” Sen. Mercado-Kim said.

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