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Hawaii Department of Health to boost staffing statewide with CARES Act funds

The state Department of Health is spending $14 million in federal CARES Act money to boost staffing at Hawaii hospitals statewide over the next four months.

The money will go towards the temporary hiring of more than 200 mainland nurses and specialists, some of whom will be arriving this weekend, the DOH said.

Gov. Ige approved the money this week through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to increase health care capacity as the state reopens the kama’aina economy today and public schools and tourism in October.

The state contracted Cincinnati, Ohio-based staffing firm ProLink Healthcare to fill 85% of the specialized positions by medical-surgical nurses, critical care nurses and telemetry nurses for Kuakini Medical Center, Queen’s Medical Center, Adventist Health Castle, Hilo Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center, Straub Medical Center, Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children and Pali Momi Medical Center. Other positions being filled include respiratory therapists, emergency department nurses and dialysis nurses.

“As Hawaii faces increases in hospitalizations due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the Department of Health wants to be sure our hospitals have sufficient surge capacity,” Dr. Elizabeth Char, new health director, said in a news release. “During their time here, these experienced healthcare staff will be providing critical patient care as well as respite for our dedicated local healthcare workforce.”

Specifically, the state is hiring 70 critical care nurses, 61 telemetry nurses, 71 medical-surgical nurses, 17 respiratory therapists, nine emergency department nurses and five dialysis nurses who will be deployed in two waves.

The first 134 surge staff will arrive from Sept. 26 and Oct. 4, and work in the islands for two months. About 100 others are scheduled to arrive on Nov. 1 for another two months.

The travel nurses and specialists have an exemption from the mandatory 14-day quarantine as essential workers, but will be regularly tested for COVID-19, the DOH said.

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