HONOLULU (KHON2) — Queen’s Health Systems held a news conference on Friday at Punchbowl to discuss “the disaster area” that was just announced by the City of what’s happening at Queen’s West.
At Queen’s West, too many COVID patients overwhelmed the hospital at once, on top of many waiting for beds at the emergency room. The City set up a disaster area and tents. A mobile command unit/instant command unit is also being set up.
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“Today we declared a state of emergency at West Oahu, so that means all hands are on deck,” said Jason Chang, Queen’s Health Systems COO. “Our emergency department saw 63 patients at one point in time in the emergency department by itself. About 26 of those patients were there to be ruled out by COVID, and that’s a crisis because that emergency department has 24 beds.”
With the limited capacity, Chang says those with mild illnesses that can be treated at an Urgent Care should go there instead.
“I do want to say that if you have a heart attack, if you’ve had a stroke, and you need the emergency department — we are not closed,” he said. “So please, you can use it. Show up.”
Chang shares this message with everyone: get vaccinated and avoid socializing this weekend.
“It’s really a crisis out there,” he said. “The number of new positive COVID cases is just increasingly high, and we’re worried about that because it translates to more patients that are going to need emergency care in the hospitals, and between all the normal emergencies and COVID cases, it’s overwhelming our systems.”
The city’s emergency medical services department director Dr. Jim Ireland said resources and medical workers will be on sight to offer support.
“We’ll provide paramedics, we’ll provide cots and beds minimal supplies, but really we are going to augment their staff. The doctors and nurses of queens ER will still take care of the patient,” Ireland said. “But we’re going to be there to add assistance and extra set of eyes or eyes, and also to monitor the folks in the tents if the doctors and nurses are kind of running back and forth between the ER and the tent.”
Ireland is in constant communication with the hospitals in order to prevent overwhelming the facilities where patients are being sent to.
Hawaii’s Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is also the state’s COVID-19 Healthcare Liaison also responded to the hospitals state of emergency. He said the overflow was critical.
“They had individuals that were on ventilators in the hallways, people that were in a critical state with no beds so they began to send patients to some of the other hospitals,” Green said. “And then they reached critical capacity, so that’s why we had to erect some tents for an extra eight.”
A second triage tent is expected to be erected by Saturday.
Hospitalizations have increased 600% since July 1, when there were just 40 COVID-19 patients in the hospital.
“We have seen people in their 20s and 30s die of COVID, which is unbelievable,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green told KHON2 last week.
It is common for hospital emergency rooms to be on rolling divert, which means hospital emergency rooms are reaching capacity at different times of the day, but Green said that has a huge impact on when neighbor islands beds could be available for non-COVID-19 patients.
One hospital on the Big Island reported having zero ICU beds open for new patients as of Monday. The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients at Hilo Medical Center is also on the rise — another surge of patients could push the hospital to the limit.
“We didn’t have the influx of patients that we’re having now,” Kona Community Hospital Marketing and Strategic Planning Director Judy Donovan said. “It’s almost as though we spent the last year and a half practicing for what we’re experiencing right now.”
More than 500 healthcare workers will by arriving in Hawaii in the coming weeks to accommodate the increased need at 19 hospitals statewide as COVID cases continue to surge.
Between Queen’s Punchbowl and West locations, 74 nurses will be helping beginning next week.
Get more coronavirus news: COVID vaccines, boosters and Safe Travels information
All of the out-of-state healthcare staff are required to be either fully vaccinated or be tested regularly for COVID-19. They are expected to work in Hawaii for eight weeks each.