More neighbor island COVID-19 screening and test-specimen collection sites on the way

Coronavirus

The capacity for COVID-19 screening and test-specimen collection varies statewide depending on the island. Always Investigating reports lawmakers and doctors on the neighbor islands are calling for a fast catchup, while more clinic and testing resources are coming online almost every day.

Oahu’s COVID-19 screening capacity grew significantly this week, as did the scope at Kauai’s hospital. Private labs and urgent-care drive-through testing ramped up, too. KHON2 looked into when Maui County and the Big Island can expect to see more screening resources as well.

In a week that saw rapid clinic and urgent care private testing rollout, The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu added a “walking well” tent for qualified patient screening test-sample collection if warranted.

Hawaii Pacific Health also launched more sampling capability at Straub, Kapiolani, Pali Momi and Wilcox on Kauai, which took the tests for the now-positive two Kauai visitors.

“Any hospital in the state — and we have 28 hospitals in the state — can test for COVID-19 if you meet the criteria,” explained Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. “In addition to that, there are a series of other sites that are being stood up to help manage the capacity of the people who would qualify to get tested for COVID-19. You still have to meet the criteria. You can’t just walk in and say, ‘Look, I’m concerned I might have it.’”

Raethel says expect to see even more regional testing centers or collection sites popping up in the coming days.

According to Queen’s, on the Big Island effective Monday, the North Hawaii Community Hospital in Kamuela will launch such services.

As for Maui, “Our hospital, Maui Health Systems and the county is working on a plan to provide COVID testing offsite,” explained Dr. Nicole Apoliona, medical director of the Kula Hospital and Clinic. “No matter who provides it we would really like to see an outpatient offsite testing area for COVID, for patients with respiratory symptoms and/or fever, away from our medical facilities to relieve the burned on medical facilities.”

KHON2 has learned the state pulled back on the rollout of additional temporary emergency-sourced screening centers on Maui and in Kona that could have been in place Saturday.

“We were briefed yesterday that these testing centers would be set up,” said state Sen. Kai Kahele, who represents Hawaii Island , “and I don’t know what happened but that obviously did not happen.”

“It was scheduled to commence as soon as possible,” Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said.

Volunteers associated with the Hawaii Healthcare Emergency Management (HHEM) coalition were told Friday activation was coming, then was quickly put back on standby.

“It’s unfortunate because that’s what our clinicians on Maui are asking,” said state Sen. Roz Baker, who represents Maui. “Clearly I thought that we were all on the same page.”

The state Department of Health told KHON2 the decision not to roll out was in part because “private hospitals throughout the state are standing up additional screening and testing areas for COVID-19 and these additional resources are expected to meet the needs of the public.”

“Hawaii Healthcare Emergency Management has a disaster assistance team of local practicing physicians and retired physicians that can be deployed for emergency purposes. These individuals are currently working in local hospitals and medical offices to serve their patients and the public,” the DOH also explained in its statement to KHON2. “Pulling them away from their patients at this time may not be beneficial or efficient. Placing retired physicians who are older and at higher risk for COVID-19 in screening roles also seems ill advised at this time.”

Lt. Gov. Dr. Josh Green, who is the state’s designated COVID-19 coordinator, arranged a workaround by Saturday afternoon

“I reached out again to our partners at Maui Memorial hospital, which are Kaiser, and they agreed to provide the healthcare,” Green told Always Investigating. “The county folks are going to provide the facility and they’re going to get that baby up.”

Green says HHEM is helping ensure all the necessary personal protective equipment will be on hand. The Maui site is expected to be up by Monday.

As for the Big Island, that workaround is coming through Hawaii Disaster Medical Assistance Team and the state Department of Defense, according to Green.

“In partnership with Gen. (Kenneth) Hara (Hawaii DOD adjutant general and director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency) and his team which has a lot of young people that can do a ton of work, we will have expert healthcare in combination with that excellent team so we can fill any spaces,” Green said. “So I think they will need to be deployed to West Hawaii to the Big Island.”

“Hilo hospital will be deploying their regional testing center on Tuesday at 8 a.m.,” Green said, “so we will finally have the state covered for outpatient capacity.”

“If there’s one thing we absolutely critically need right now on all of the Hawaiian islands is the opportunity and ability for people to go into a regional testing center and get tested if they have flulike symptoms,” Sen. Kahele said.

“In regards to 10 being the highest priority it would be number 10,” Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said of his island’s need for additional testing-sample collection capacity. “This has got to be a priority for all of us for everything else to work.”

“We can’t be Oahu-centric because it’s all over the place,” Sen. Baker said, “and we need to have the capabilities to either reassure people they don’t need thee test, have them evaluated, and if they do need the test have it provided and not send them someplace else.”

“The sooner we get testing the sooner we know what we need to do and what we have to deal with,” Dr. Apoliona said. “The turnaround time for the tests aren’t immediate anyway before we get the results, but at least we can get started. Right now we are working with no data.”

Always Investigating will continue to follow up on testing and screening capacity statewide.

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