Hawaii’s medical community braces for a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations

Hawaii’s medical community braces for a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations
Hawaii hospitals say they're preparing for an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. (Source: HNN)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Medical centers in Hawaii have spent the past few months preparing for the possibility of a sudden need for more hospital beds.

And with the case count rising, doctors are bracing for a surge in people needing higher levels of care.

There were 61 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across Hawaii on Wednesday, up from 47 patients a day earlier. State health officials said of the 112 ICU beds currently in use, 15 are for COVID-19 cases.

Officials at the Queen’s Medical Center said they’re taking the increase in patients requiring hospitalization extremely seriously.

“At this point, we have adequate ICU capacity. We have contingency plans to have expanded care areas,” said Dr. Rick Bruno, vice president of patient care at The Queen’s Health Systems.

Queen's is seeing a range of patient conditions in its emergency department.

"It's a very serious illness. We see everything from mild illness that can go home, to patients who require ICU space, being put on a ventilator," Bruno said.

Hawaii Pacific Health facilities have seen a slight increase in hospitalizations.

“Many of those patients are not as sick as the patients who were in the initial phases of our experience with this virus,” said Dr. Melinda Ashton, chief quality officer for Hawaii Pacific Health.

“So fewer of them are needing intensive care unit beds, which is a great thing.”

There is still plenty of capacity for patients, according to Ashton.

Contingency plans are also ready in case there is a need for additional beds and staff.

"That's always a concern, if our staff are out quarantined sick because they've done things in their personal lives that have led them to exposure, that's a worry," Ashton said.

Kaiser Permanente has worked to boost its intensive care unit capacity and staff.

"We've been training a lot of people who normally don't work in the ICU or even in the hospital," said Dr. Sreenandh Krishnagopalan, Kaiser Permanente's chief of critical care. "So clinic physicians have all been willing to step up and work in the hospital if need be."

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