As COVID-19 infections surge, Oahu hospitals race to create more critical care units

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Updated: Aug. 6, 2020 at 5:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With emergency officials projecting intensive care beds could be in short supply by the end of the month, hospitals are racing to stay ahead of the need.

At some healthcare facilities, entire floors are being converted into new critical care units.

One of the largest projects currently underway is at the Queen’s Medical Center.

That’s where a ninth floor medical ward is being transformed into a brand new infection prevention unit. It will increase the hospital’s ICU capacity by nearly 50%.

Planning for the new unit started two months ago. Hospital President Jason Chang confirms much of the equipment has been purchased and is on a ship bound for Oahu.

“So we’re going in and renovating the whole thing,” he said.

“It’s all negative pressure so that the air can be circulated back out and filtered. And it’s not just for COVID. It could be any infectious disease no matter what it is in the future.”

The goal is to have the 24-bed unit operational by the end of September.

But with the influx of new cases, Lt. Gov. Josh Green warns that might not be soon enough.

“At this rate by the end of the month our ICU capacity will be maxing out,” Green said.

Chang says it’s a reality the hospital is witnessing first-hand.

Over the past three weeks, the number of COVID patients admitted to the Queen’s Medical Center’s Punchbowl facility jumped from approximately 10 to almost 50.

“It’s going up fast,” said Chang. “That’s a concern because where’s it going to stop? We don’t know.”

Kaiser Permanente Moanalua also reports seeing an uptick in COVID patients.

In a statement hospital officials said:

“We’ve been training staff so they are able to step into critical care roles and have plans in place to transition floors and units within the hospital to an ICU level of care.”

On Thursday, 117 COVID patients were hospitalized. The vast majority are on Oahu. Twenty-one patients are in intensive care.

Overall a little more than half of the state’s 244 ICU beds are full.

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