Relief nurses arrive as hospitals across the state nearly reach capacity

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A triage tent at Queen’s Medical Center is a visual representation of hospitals running out of space amid an influx of COVID patients. One hospital on the Big Island reports having zero ICU beds open for new patients as of Monday afternoon.

The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients at Hilo Medical Center is on the rise — another surge of patients could push the hospital to the limit.

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Elena Cabatu, the hospital’s Director of Marketing and Public & Legislative Affairs, said a large accident is a nightmare scenario.

“Just yesterday, when I was speaking with the house supervisor, she said we’re in an awful situation,” Cabatu said. “If there’s a big car accident and it brings in multiple patients, we will have a very difficult time to care for these patients because we have no ICU beds open.”

Kona Community Hospital just had one ICU bed open at its facility over the weekend. However, the situation became more stable Monday, as patients were able to be moved to other units, which opened up ICU beds.

Still, the hospital has admitted more COVID patients since the onset of the pandemic.

“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.”

Neighbor island hospitals rely on larger hospitals on Oahu to treat its most critical patients, but now even Queen’s Medical Center President Jason Chang said all of its 60 ICU beds were in use Monday afternoon. Chang said the number of hospitalized patients changes constantly, and it still has the capacity to move patients to other facilities if needed.

“Patients that they would ordinarily transfer to us, we’re trying to see if they can medically manage them safely at their own hospitals,” Chang said. “It’s a very delicate balancing act right now.”

Maui Memorial Medical Center is also seeing an increase of COVID cases, but the hospital is not needing to divert patients or ask non-critical patients to hold off surgeries. The hospital’s CEO Michael Rembis said what concerns him are the ages of the patients the hospital is admitting.

“Fifty-one percent of all the patients in our hospital today are younger than 60,” Rembis said. “That hasn’t happened before. We’re now seeing patients very sick being admitted in their twenties, thirties, and forties.”

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But at last, some relief, the first wave of specialty nurses and respiratory therapists have arrived on the Big Island. Maui is expecting relief medical workers to arrive next week. Queen’s is expecting about 120 travel medical workers to assist its employees.

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