HONOLULU (KHON2) — As one ambulance leaves, another one drives in, signs of busy times at hospitals. 

The Healthcare Association of Hawai’i President and CEO Hilton Raethel said the high number of patients is no longer just COVID, these are emergencies, surgeries and lack of post-care facilities making it difficult to discharge patients from hospitals. 

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Raethel said, “Right now, today, we have a number of our hospitals that are at 90% capacity or higher. And, we have a couple that are essentially having every bed in their hospital occupied.”

Hospitals that reach patient capacity could put patients in hallway beds as they wait for a room to open up. The Queen’s Medical Center said that is the case on occasions when the emergency department and the hospital reach capacity. 

The Hawai’i Nurses Association President Daniel Ross said the union does not object to having patients wait on hallway beds while another patient is being discharged. But he has heard from nurses this week about patients at the Queen’s Medical Center being sent to inpatient floors without rooms available, which the union considers unsafe.

Ross said, “They’re already short-staffed, they already have fewer nurses and they’re supposed to for the number of patients they have. And they’re just throwing another patient at them to put in the hallway.”

The Queen’s Health System Chief Operating Officer and The Queen’s Medical Center President Jason Chang, in a statement, said: 

“Our goal is to provide access to care for all, and while some patients may wait for a bed to become available, our caregivers are working hard every day on multiple initiatives to ensure we are doing everything we can to minimize wait times and effectively utilize our resources in the best way possible.  That includes ensuring that on the rare occasion in which patients are placed in the hallway, they are there temporarily while a room is being prepared.  Additionally, patients are being monitored and supervised by caregivers with protocols in place to ensure they are receiving high-quality care in a safe manner.”

Ross said they understand emergency department personnel need the relief but said the hospital should also take steps to reduce or stop intaking non-urgent cases.

Ross said, “Emergency rooms need pressure relief. But if it’s that desperate, then they need to stop admitting non-emergent patients.” 

Meanwhile, some hospitals still facing worker shortages. Raethel said the compensation versus Hawaii’s high cost of living makes it difficult to recruit employees. 

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Raethel said, “There are approximately 1000 RN open positions in the state of Hawaii, that is just RN positions.” 

Hundreds of other medical positions also need to be filled.