Dire warnings by hospitals fueled decision to reinstate some COVID-19 orders

Dire warnings by hospitals fueled decision to reinstate some COVID-19 orders
Kaiser Permanente's Moanalua Medical Center is reinstating visitor restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The decision to close parks and beaches on Oahu and reinstate an inter-island traveler quarantine was fueled by alarms set off by Hawaii’s hospitals.

Hilton Raethel, CEO and president of Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said Kaiser Moanalua was at maximum capacity two days with both COVID-19 and regular patients in every ICU bed.

"If we start to get two or three or more hospitals that are maxing out their ICU capacity that is really a problem for us," he said.

Raethel says the triple-digit cases and trajectory models told them more would get sick and the hospital system would be overwhelmed within two to three weeks.

"We are going to run out of doctors and nurses to take care of our patients and that's what we want to avoid," he said.

There are 150 beds that could be set up next to hospitals in MASH-like tents statewide, but there’s still a lack of manpower.

The state is trying to avoid the worst-case scenarios seen Washington State and New York, where health care workers were forced to make impossible decisions about who gets care or who doesn’t.

“Would you like to be on a panel where you have to make a decision on who lives or who dies or who gets a therapy and who does not,” said Raethel.

Daniel Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association and a nurse at the Queen’s Medical Center, described how taxing the situation already is for many health care professionals.

“I had ... a nurse tell me that it feels like when he’s going to work, he’s getting in a car that he knows the brakes are cut. You are going down the mountain anyway. There’s not much choice,” he said.

“We’ve got to go in.”

His emotions are raw as nurses on the front lines fear a situation that could quickly get out of control.

“Even if they have the space, they don’t have staff. We don’t have the nurses to take care of that number of patients. As nurses get sick and burn out, nurses are falling ill with COVID,” said Ross.

One big push is making sure that health care workers are protected from infection from each other and the community. They say it’s hard not to let down your guard around colleagues and family.

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