The Hawaii Department of Health today announced that more than 500 experienced health care professionals from out of state will be deployed to 19 hospitals statewide in coming weeks to help with the ongoing coronavirus surge.
The state expects to receive $46 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to bring in the supplemental health care workers via a contract with ProLink Healthcare in Cincinnati, Ohio.
A portion of the workers already arrived this past weekend, including 46 clinicians deployed to Hilo Medical Center and Kona Hospital on Hawaii island, according to DOH. The remaining staff are expected to arrive in waves over the next three weeks — for eight-week shifts at a time.
DOH worked with the Hawaii Healthcare Association of Hawaii and Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to bring in the additional staff for the second time during the pandemic. The collaboration allowed DOH to bring this to fruition in less than a month, according to Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char.
“The needs in the hospitals have dramatically increased primarily because of the highly transmissible delta variant,” said said Hilton Raethel, CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, in a news release. “Our emergency rooms, medical-surge units and intensive care units are being overwhelmed with patients who have not been vaccinated. Access to staffing resources is critically important for all of the acute facilities to improve access to care. The speed at which this has come together has been outstanding, and we are grateful for the continued partnerships.”
The Queen’s Health Systems, for instance, has no available intensive care beds and has started canceling elective surgeries and diverted patients with emergency health needs to other hospitals.
Among hospitals receiving surge staff are Kuakini Medical Center, The Queen’s Medical Center (in Honolulu, West Oahu, Molokai General, and North Hawaii), Adventist Health Castle, Hilo Medical Center, Hale Ho‘ola Hamakua, Kona Community Hospital, Maui Memorial Medical Center, Wahiawa General, Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center, Straub Medical Center, Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, Pali Momi Medical Center, Wilcox Hospital, Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital, Samuel Mahelona Medical Center, and Hawaii State Hospital.
The majority of surge staff are made up of critical care, medical-surgical, and telemetry nurses, but respiratory therapists, emergency department nurses, medical technicians, and behavioral health clinicians are also included.
All are required to show verification that they are fully vaccinated or be tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis.
The request for supplemental staff this year compared to last year is considerably greater.
Last September, DOH secured $14 million in federal CARES Act funds to bring 140 traveling staff to hospitals plus another $3 million to bring in 70 more to help long-term care providers. They worked at Hawaii hospitals over a four-month period.
“With the delta variant causing a surge in cases across the nation, working together as a group improved our opportunities to obtain the funding Hawaii needs,” said HI-EMA administrator Luke Meyers in a news release. “This approach also ensures smaller, rural hospitals, especially those on the neighbor islands, can receive the support they need and are not overlooked to ensure equitable health care access for all Hawaii residents.”