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‘Exhausted’ Hawaii health care workers grapple with mounting impacts of COVID surge

With over 8 thousand announced total weekly COVID infections, healthcare facilities are facing worker shortages statewide.
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 4:32 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 8, 2022 at 4:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s COVID surge shows no signs of letting up.

According to the latest report from the Department of Health, Hawaii saw another week of at least 8,000 cases and eight new deaths. DOH says the state’s daily average infection count is just under 1,100 cases.

While hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with patients, the virus is taking healthcare workers off the job and creating staff shortages.

Last week, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii reported more than 800 frontline caregivers out sick.

A of Wednesday, that number continues to remain high.

“The number of staff that we have out now because of exposure or positive tests or because of symptoms is as high as it has ever been throughout this pandemic,” said Association President Hilton Raethel.

And staff shortages are impacted patients, including with delays in care and discharge.

Raethel says there are currently 200 waitlisted patients statewide who are ready to be discharged from hospitals but can’t be placed in long-term care facilities because of staffing issues.

“They have the beds, but they don’t have the staff for those beds and so the patients are backed up in the hospitals,” he said.

Daniel Ross heads the Hawaii Nurses Association and says caregivers are beyond overworked.

“I know I’m exhausted and I think just about every nurse that works at the bedside is exhausted,” Ross said.

“If you’re working excessive hours, you can only do it for so much and so it kind of compounds the problem. You got somebody else out and it just gets worse and worse and worse.”

Fortunately, the patient census is not at a crisis point.

As of Wednesday, there are 12 COVID patients in ICU Beds and Raethel says a mild strain is what’s keeping the healthcare worker shortage from being much worse.

“The reason that we don’t have more staff out right now is because the impact of this particular infection is less than the impact of the prior infections from the Omicron surge and the Delta surge, so that’s the only saving grace here,” Raethel said.

About 150 replacement workers are here from the mainland.

Raethel says facilities have asked for another 100 to help with the shortage.

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