State needs more than 200 nurses to handle hospital surge

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Health officials say we have already reached capacity with staffing at our hospitals, and are hoping to get some help from the military. They say at least 200 nurses are needed within the next couple of weeks.

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Health officials say the state is asking the federal government to send healthcare professionals from the military to Hawaii as soon as possible. Until that happens, officials are also asking to use Tripler Army Medical Center because they say there will be a surge in hospitalizations.

At Queen’s Medical Center, nurses say more and more of them are working double shifts, meaning 16 hours straight.

“It looks dire for the future of Queen’s right now, it’s hectic and it’s busy,” said Daniel Ross, who’s a nurse and president of the Hawaii Nurses Association.

He says nurses are getting moved around just to make sure there are enough for each shift.

“There’s no good answer. We’re going to be short, it’s going to be busy. We anticipate it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Ross.

Which is why the Healthcare Association of Hawaii is already putting together a request for help from the military.

“We are asking for enough healthcare resources, specifically nursing to staff about 70 beds here in Hawaii,” Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

That’s at least 200 staff of mostly nurses. Raethel adds that getting civilian nurses from the mainland is both expensive and difficult because other states are also running short. Lt. Gov. Josh Green says a surge in hospitalization will happen within two weeks, so help from the military is critical.

“I can assure everyone out there that’s watching that Gen. Hara is on top of this. He’s in communication with the top people to make sure that we have all the support, all hands on deck,” said Green.

There are more than 4,500 active cases statewide. In the past, as many as 10% of those would wind up in the hospital. There are also contingency plans to add another 1,000 hospital beds, but they won’t be much good if there’s no staffing for those beds.

“It’s really critical that we get ahead of this because some things could happen, because imagine if, for instance, healthcare personnel get sick at one of our major hospitals. We could lose the whole region of care capacity,” said Green.

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