Amid ongoing shortage of health care workers, Hawaii hospitals see ‘unprecedented’ demand

Across the state and the country hospitals, especially emergency rooms, are bursting at the seams.
Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 6:32 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 5, 2022 at 8:15 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hospitals across the state are busier than ever — even busier than during the peak of the pandemic.

At Maui Memorial Medical Center, patients are having to double up in rooms and even sleep in the emergency room as they wait for a room.

“We are experiencing an unprecedented demand for health care. The entire state is,” said Maui Health System Chief Executive Officer Michael Rembis.

“This is the highest number of admissions in the state of Hawaii we’ve ever had, and Maui is feeling it.”

Health care officials say the capacity issues are being driven by a number of issues.

“One of them is that there are some delayed repercussions from the pandemic where people put care on hold,” said Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii president and CEO.

“And so that has been a problem bigger, which means the patients who do come into the hospital, some of them are sicker because they delayed or deferred care.”

Rembis added Hawaii is also seeing a rise in flu, RSV and COVID cases.

“You add it all together, we have more need for healthcare than ever before,” Rembis said.

At the same time, there is an ongoing shortage of health care professionals.

“Our skilled nursing facilities are short staffed, they don’t have sufficient staff, they have beds, but they don’t have staff, and that means our patients get backed up in our hospitals,” Raethel said.

Rembis said they are currently working on a surge plan to expand the capacity at Maui’s main hospital.

“We have some outpatient areas of the hospital we’re trying to convert to inpatient beds,” he said.

Rembis said no one will be turned away and the “average patient” is seen within 18 minutes by a provider.

He said it can take much longer if tests and extra work needs to be done.

For Maui residents, he advised going to an urgent care center, or Kula Hospital for non-life-threatening issues.

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