HONOLULU (KHON2) — Officials say the staffing shortage at hospitals and nursing homes has reached a critical point. The industry has asked the governor to declare an emergency proclamation to bring in mainland workers as soon as possible.

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii says hospitals across the state are reaching capacity, not because of COVID patients, but because so many healthcare workers aren’t able to work because of COVID.

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“We have on any given day over 1,000 frontline healthcare workers out because of exposure to COVID because of testing positive or because they have symptoms,” said Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii President and CEO.

That includes long term care facilities like nursing homes. So hospitals aren’t able to discharge patients to the nursing homes. And with the hospitals full, patients at emergency rooms are taking longer to process and put in a regular hospital bed.

“Because our hospitals are so full, we have patients sitting in our emergency rooms for much longer than they should be because we don’t have available beds,” said Raethel.

Kona Community Hospital on the Big Island is near capacity and has set up what’s called a Blue-Med tent to triage incoming patients.

“We are very concerned about how we manage all of these patients and keeping the best care possible going in this situation,” said Judy Donovan, spokesperson for Kona Community Hospital.

Raethel says the solution is to bring workers in from the mainland. But processing them will take too long because of licensing requirements. He’s asked the governor to declare an emergency proclamation to waive the licensing requirements.

“We need it as soon as possible. We are running at critical and close to crisis levels within our facilities,” said Raethel.

He adds that each day puts hospitals in a more precarious situation.

“We have more patients in our hospitals today and over these past couple of weeks than the peak of the omicron surge in January of this year and at the peak of the delta surge in August and September of last year,” said Raethel.

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We reached out to the governor’s office and we have not heard back.