Union warns of nurse shortage with rise of coronavirus cases

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hospitals in Hawaii are able to expand their number of intensive care units if the number of COVID-19 patients goes beyond capacity, but now some are worried there will not be enough nurses to care for those sick patients.  

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The latest rise of COVID-19 cases is worrisome for state officials, but even more for those who are treating the patients. Thursday saw the biggest jump of positives with 355 new cases in the state.

The President of the Hawaii Nurses Association, Daniel Ross, said the current rate of admitted patients is not sustainable for the state. He is also a registered nurse and witnesses the daily impacts of incoming patients.

“It’s anxiety over what’s going to happen in a week, so you know on average you get 10% of those numbers in about a week,” Ross said. “Three hundred (cases) today. In about a week, we will see about 30 admissions.”

Ross said there is already a struggle to keep up with staffing demands.

“The way the numbers are climbing, we’re sliding into a crisis, it’s scary,” Ross said. “The nurses know it, the hospitals are filling up, we’re already having staffing issues in certain units.” 

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has doubled since the beginning of August.

Green said, “In this two week period, 81 plus additional people have been hospitalized and unfortunately some people do die, as we heard today and our hearts just break.”

With more than half of the state’s ICU beds occupied, Green told hospitals to be ready to expand beyond capacity.

Ross said that could impact the current guidelines set to keep medical staff and patients safe.

Ross said, “I think everybody understands if in a couple of weeks–two to three weeks if things get really bad–a lot of these best practices go right out the window because it will be survival mode.”  

State nurses are also calling on hospitals to be more transparent about how much personal protective equipment is readily available, as well as more access to COVID-19 testing.

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