Nurses care for more ICU patients amid rise in hospitalizations

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Staffing at Hawaii’s hospitals is reaching a critical point, and the head of the state’s nurses union said facilities are looking for help in any way that they can.

A moment of crisis is no longer a hypothetical for hospitals. The Hawaii Nurses Association President Daniel Ross said nurses at Queen’s Medical Center are working overload.

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“It’s at crisis levels right now, the ICUs are taken,” Ross said. “The ICU nurses are being assigned three ICU patients at the same time. They normally take care of one to two patients at the same time.”

Ross said travel nurses have brought some relief, but more people are being admitted. It has gotten to the point where hospital staff, whose jobs do not involve treating patients, may be asked to give nurses an extra pair of hands.

“You can even have people who aren’t nurses, who are doing administrative desk stuff, they can come and answer phones for us,” Ross said. “They can run, be a runner for me because when I am in a COVID room I can’t go out.”

At Queen’s West, the hospital is putting up another tent to care for the emergency room’s overflow. But staffing continues to be a problem, and hospitals want to avoid a sharp spike in hospitalizations.

“The worst case scenario is that we have so many patients that we are unable to care for all of you and provide the right level of care,” The Queen’s Health Systems President and CEO Dr. Jill Green said. “Right now, our nurses and physicians and our respiratory therapists are working so hard to keep it at the highest quality even though they are stretched.”

Ross fears that worst case scenario is not so far fetched at this point.

Ross said, “God forbid anyone you know has to be a patient in a hospital right now, you are not going to get the care you deserve because it’s impossible with the resources that we have.”

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Another wave of nurses is on the way. About 200 more travel clinicians funded by FEMA are expected to arrive in the next few days to the islands.

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