With scores of Hawaii health care workers sidelined by COVID-19, state seeks mainland help

Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 12:27 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 25, 2020 at 12:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s health care workers have been hit hard by a surge in COVID-19 cases, with upwards of 100 in quarantine after testing positive for the virus or being exposed.

The situation has prompted the state to look for help from the mainland.

Because an influx in COVID-19 patients in recent weeks has put stress on hospitals.

And officials say while there is still hospital bed space available, there aren’t enough health care workers to provide patients with the round-the-clock care they need. That’s kept those available beds empty.

[Read more: Hawaii reports 2 additional COVID-19 fatalities, bringing death toll in the islands to 49]

Hilton Raethel, president of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said his organization is working with the state Department of Health and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to formally ask for help.

“What we don’t have is the nursing staff, which is both medical surgical staff and critical care staff.” said Raethel. The state needs enough mainland workers for 60 additional beds on Oahu and 10 more on Maui.

The state is also asking the federal government to allow Tripler Army Medical Center to care for civilians during this time. And the Healthcare Association of Hawaii also wants to discharge patients with less severe coronavirus cases to designated hotels or quarantine facilities to make room for others.

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“Because the infection rates are continuing at the rates they are, that continues to add capacity to our hospitals or add demand on our hospitals,” Raethel said.

“More patients are coming in with COVID-19 than what we’re discharging on any given day.”

If the requests are approved, more healthcare workers could be in Hawaii by the end of the month.

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