Despite declining COVID hospitalizations, a record number of patients fill medical centers

Despite dropping COVID hospitalizations, a record number of patients without the virus are filling medical centers across the state.
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 2:50 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2021 at 5:19 PM HST

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite dropping COVID hospitalizations, a record number of patients without the virus are filling medical centers across the state.

On Tuesday, 2,400 people were hospitalized in Hawaii. It’s an all-time single day record for the state that surpasses numbers during the peak of the pandemic.

According to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, less than 3% (or just 60 people) were receiving hospital treatment had coronavirus.

The influx of patients is threatening to put new stress on facilities.

It comes days before hundreds of mainland nurses are scheduled to leave the islands. Meanwhile, healthcare workers at Kaiser are threatening to strike.

Officials say the reason hospitals are so full is because people either could not access or put off medical care during the pandemic. Now a lot of those patients are much sicker than if they’d gotten earlier treatment and they’re ending up in the hospital longer.

On Thursday morning, Hawaii Nurses Association President Daniel Ross used his break to step outside and provide an update on what it’s like working the frontlines at Queen’s Medical Center.

“I’m a staff RN. I work on the med-surg floor,” he said. “We’re just full all the time. It’s frustrating because this has been going on for years. It’s just greatly exacerbated now after COVID.”

The 2,400 patients hospitalized currently in the state compares to 2,365 when the pandemic was at its worst in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, FEMA contracts for more than 250 traveling nurses expire this weekend. With hospitals bursting at the seams many have been asked to stay.

“We have a number of hospitals who have reached out to some of these visiting staff from the mainland and we’ve already converted 181 to a temporary hospital contracts,” said Hilton Raethel, CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

He said they’re also working to bring in about another 150 traveling nurses and frontline staff. He says much of it’s driven by the record number of patients.

“What’s also concerning here is the potential Kaiser strike,” Raethel said. “They’re concerned they may have to move patients or not be able to accept new patients.”

It’s a situation that has Ross worried, too.

“It could potentially reduce the number of hospital beds available,” he said. “Those patients are going to end up here in our already overloaded system.”

Approximately 1,800 Kaiser employees could strike Nov. 22 if contract negotiations aren’t successful.

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