Amid surge, more than 1,000 frontline caregivers in Hawaii out due to COVID

The number of frontline caregivers out because of the virus has more than doubled in the past week.
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 3:35 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2022 at 12:21 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As COVID infections continue to surge in Hawaii, the number of frontline caregivers out because of the virus has more than doubled in the past week.

Health officials confirm at least 1,000 clinical workers across the state can’t cover their shifts either because they tested positive or have been exposed.

To make matters worse, more than 100 mainland nurses who were expected to arrive this weekend are delayed. Health officials say FEMA still hasn’t officially signed off on covering the cost of those reinforcements. Now, the earliest they could start is mid-January.

“We still believe the worst of the hospitalizations are in front of us for this surge,” said Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, who added staffing shortages at hospitals are dire.

He says last week between 300 and 400 clinical personnel were out due to COVID.

On Tuesday, it was more than 1,000 ― or about 7% of the workforce.

“This is not groundskeepers, This is not accountants. This is not finance people,” Raethel said. “This is people who are on the frontlines.”

Health officials say the numbers are consistent with the dramatic increase of infections in the community.

Over the past 14 days, more than 28,000 Hawaii residents have tested positive for COVID.

“The peak looks like it’s going to happen as far as the case counts go around the 15th of January,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green. “And then the peak in the hospitals should probably happen around the 25th of January.”

Green says more than 700 frontline caregivers from the continent are on standby.

The first wave of between 100 and 150 nurses was supposed to touch down in Hawaii this weekend to provide relief to local personnel.

Raethel says because the federal government has yet to approve the contract the earliest they could start is around Jan. 17.

“We are hoping very much for a green light from FEMA any day,” he said.

Green said in the meantime hospitals are trying to bring in additional staff on their own.

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.