Maui Coronavirus Updates

500+ Healthcare Surge Staff to be Deployed to 19 Hawai‘i Hospitals

August 18, 2021, 10:07 AM HST
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Maui Memorial Medical Center. PC: Wendy Osher (8.16.21)

More than 500 experienced healthcare professionals from out of state will be deployed to 19 hospitals statewide in the coming weeks with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Hawai‘i will receive $46 million in federal funding to bring in traveling healthcare workers through staffing services from ProLink Healthcare.

This past weekend, 46 clinicians were deployed to Hilo Medical Center and Kona Hospital on Hawai‘i Island to accommodate the increased need as a result of the surge in COVID-19 cases. The remaining staff are expected to arrive in Hawai‘i and be deployed over the next three weeks. They are expected to work in Hawai‘i for eight weeks each.

Here on Maui, hospital executives maintain the Maui hospital is not at capacity, they say COVID-19 admissions are taking a toll on the Maui hospital.  “We don’t have enough staff. Our staff is tired. They’re working hard. They’re putting in extra shifts. They’re doing everything they can to provide exceptional care to our community. It’s going to be like that until Monday,” said Michael Rembis, CEO Maui Health System.

With the assistance of Mayor Michael Victorino and Governor David Ige, the MMMC is getting some help from FEMA in the form of 20 new nurses who will be coming on Monday, and another 20 the following week.

“What a respite that will be for our staff. But right now, the staff is tired, they’re stressed, they’re working hard. Taking care of a COVID patient is much more difficult than a general patient. You have to have them in isolation, you have to gown–it’s a lot of work–and they’re stepping up and doing an outstanding job. But the hospital is very busy,” said Rembis during a media briefing on Tuesday night.

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This is the second time during the pandemic that Hawai‘i has received surge staff support. Last September, the Hawai‘i Department of Health in collaboration with the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i, secured $14 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to bring in 140 traveler staff for hospitals, and secured another $3 million to bring in 70 healthcare staff to assist long-term care providers.

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In the first round of staffing last fall, more than 200 out-of-state nurses and other specialists were deployed to hospitals over a four-month period to supplement local hospital staff. Dr. Elizabeth Char, director of the Department of Health, served as lead medical advisor on the initial contract with ProLink Healthcare, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based healthcare staffing company. The earlier contract with ProLink has been extended to meet the current medical surge staffing needs. 

“In anticipation of the need for increased hospital staffing, Department of Health began to work with the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency to obtain emergency funding from FEMA,” Dr. Char said. “The collaboration and teamwork with HI-EMA and the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i allowed us to bring this to fruition in less than a month.”

“With the delta variant causing a surge in cases across the nation, working together as a group improved our opportunities to obtain the funding Hawai‘i needs,” said Luke Meyers, administrator of the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency. “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 healthcare access for all Hawai‘i residents.”

“The needs in the hospitals have dramatically increased primarily because of the highly transmissible delta variant. Our emergency rooms, medical-surge units and intensive care units are being overwhelmed with patients who have not been vaccinated,” said Hilton Raethel, CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i. “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.”

Specialized personnel will augment local healthcare staff at Kuakini Medical Center, The Queen’s Medical Center (in Honolulu, West O‘ahu, Molokai General, and North Hawai‘i), 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, Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital, Samuel Mahelona Medical Center, and Hawai‘i State Hospital.

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The majority of the positions are for medical-surgical nurses, critical care nurses, and telemetry nurses. The remaining positions include respiratory therapists, emergency department nurses, medical technicians, and behavioral health clinicians. The breakdown includes 150 critical care nurses, 184 telemetry nurses, 94 medical-surgical nurses, 37 respiratory therapists, 71 emergency department nurses, and other health care professionals.

All of the out-of-state healthcare staff are required to show verification that they are fully vaccinated or be tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis.

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