Help is on the way: 50 frontline caregivers from the mainland to arrive on Hawaii Island this weekend

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 4:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s hospitals are being pushed closer to their breaking point. Triage tents have started popping up at some facilities across the state, while the surge in admissions is leaving frontline caregivers exhausted.

Health officials confirm 22 hospitals across the state are in desperate need of more staff.

Now, help is on the way.

Local health leaders have teamed up with FEMA. Their goal is to bring in 550 medical staff from the mainland — mostly nurses.

The first 50 are expected to arrive this weekend. The head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii says their mission is on Hawaii Island.

“The entire system is stressed over there,” Hilton Raethel said.

He says a COVID outbreak at Life Care Center of Hilo has made it nearly impossible to place patients who need long-term care.

“And that creates a bottleneck at the hospitals. Because the hospitals don’t have facilities to discharge patients to,” Raethel said.

On Oahu, the president of Queen’s Medical Center described what it’s been like lately for his staff.

“They’re tired. They’ve been working double shifts. Sometimes triple shifts,” said Jason Chang.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green says the healthcare system won’t function if hospitalizations continue to rise.

“We then stop being able to transfer patients with heart attacks or accidents on the neighbor islands,” he said. “We won’t have that capacity because we won’t have any beds.”

To help alleviate some of the immediate pressure, a second wave of healthcare workers is expected to touch down by Aug. 23, consisting of hundreds more staff who will be deployed across the state.

A third wave of reinforcements is expected around Sept. 1.

In the meantime, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has this message: “This isn’t make believe,” he said. “This is reality and we have to deal it. Not give up hope. Deal with the reality, fight back and get vaccinated.”

Vaccination rates are up slightly compared to where they were about a month ago. Health officials say Hawaii is averaging about 3,100 shots a day.

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