HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – More now than at any point in recent years, emergency rooms on Oahu are so busy they must divert incoming ambulances to other hospitals. The crunch comes after Hawaii Medical Center East and Hawaii Medical Center West both closed.
"Usually in January our census goes up anyway. But we have been at full or near full capacity since HMC closed. And our emergency room typically sees around 160 patients a day. It is currently seeing around 200," said Karen Schultz, Vice President of Patient Care at The Queen's Medical Center.
It is the same story in every emergency room on the island. For example, at Wahiawa General Hospital admissions have more than doubled from an average of 5 new patients a day to 12 a day.
"We haven't in recent years seen emergency departments go on diversion to the extent that they are now. It really is straining the system," said George Greene, President and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
At one point earlier this week every emergency room on the island except the emergency room at Castle Medical Center was on "divert." Soon, eight ambulances showed up there filling its beds. At that point all hospitals were on "divert."
"And when they all go on divert, that means that no emergency department is on divert. That patient is accepted regardless of the capacity issue," Greene said.
When at capacity patients are prioritized. Those in the greatest need of care are treated first.
"I'm confident that we'll be able to work together in order to handle the closures of the HMC facilities, but the truth of the matter is it is placing a strain on the system," Greene said.
Ray Vara, CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health, which operates Straub Clinic and Hospital, Pali Mom Medical Center, and Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, issued a statement Friday saying, "While our emergency rooms are busier than normal, it's important for the public to remember that they should still call 911 if they are experiencing a medical emergency."
"Anyone who is in need of care is going to receive care," Greene added.