‘Stressed’ Hawaii hospitals seek emergency proclamation to help ease staffing shortages

More than half of the medical professionals surveyed said they’re considering leaving the field.
Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 5:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hospitals in Hawaii grappling with ongoing staffing shortages are asking the governor for an emergency proclamation that would waive state license rules for certified medical professionals.

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii said the waiver would only apply to those in good standing.

Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the organization, said hundreds of healthcare workers are out because of COVID illness or exposure and so are the people who certify new workers.

“We have this situation where we have an increased number of applications for healthcare workers, and the very people who process those applications many of those are out sick,” Raethel said.

“The reason we applied for this emergency proclamation is because our hospitals and other health care facilities are getting very stressed in terms of staffing.”

The situation comes as a new survey highlights the difficulty many patients are having in accessing care.

According to a new survey by the non-profit Community First and their partners, 53% of respondents said they are behind schedule in getting routine appointments because of postponed care due to the pandemic.

Only 41% were able to get appointments when they needed, while 58% have been delayed.

“What we’ve seen since the pandemic is community members, delaying care,” said Lisa Rantz, president of the Hawaii State Rural Health Association and executive director of the Hilo Medical Center Foundation.

“And because of the delay in care, they’ve gotten sicker, their chronic conditions have gotten worse.”

Medical professionals surveyed said the biggest barriers to recruiting new staff are the high cost of living, low reimbursement rates, and housing.

More than half surveyed said they’re considering leaving the field.

The Hawaii Nurses Association said the emergency order would help for now.

“But that’s a short-term fix to the long-term fix,” said Daniel Ross, president of the association.

“That is hiring more nurses, regular staff. And in order to do that, they (the hospitals) got to make their compensation packages better, they got to be competitive with what nurses can get on the mainland. I’m not talking about dollar amounts, I’m talking about the whole big picture cost of living.”

A spokesperson said the governor was not available for comment on the emergency request. However the Healthcare Association of Hawaii said they are in active talks with the Department of Health and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to see what can be done.

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