Help has arrived.
Twelve relief workers showed up Monday at Hilo Medical Center for an eight-week stint to help care for COVID-19 patients.
Fourteen more are arriving in two weeks.
“It’s a resounding, big sigh of relief,” hospital spokeswoman Elena Cabatu said. “Our staff has been experiencing exhaustion, frustration and even heartbreak over the current status of the pandemic and where we are.
“Because they’ve been pulling many overtime shifts … for consecutive days, they need respite,” she continued. “They need to recenter and re-energize so they can come back and provide the care they are highly capable of, and have been, (providing).”
Cabatu said the relief workers —11 nurses and one respiratory therapist — have a sense of mission. They’re experts in caring for COVID patients, she said.
“So, if there’s anything that can allow our staff to rest and relax, (it) is knowing they will be leaving their patients in expert hands.”
The visiting nurses and respiratory therapist are being housed in a hotel, and HMC has rented a van service to pick them up and drop them off.
Although details are still being finalized, Cabatu said the hospital will be reimbursed for those costs through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state Department of Health.
“It’s difficult right now, when everywhere is a hotspot, and everyone is asking for help,” Cabatu said. “(HMC is) grateful for the relief that has arrived.”
Elsewhere on the Big Island, 32 critical care nurses and three respiratory therapists were expected to arrive Monday at Kona Community Hospital, West Hawaii Today reported earlier this week.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital told West Hawaii Today that the Waimea facility was anticipating four FEMA-funded nurses later this month as part of a statewide request for staffing assistance.
HMC continues to run at capacity and its Emergency Department remains busy.
In an update Tuesday, Cabatu said there were 21 COVID-positive patients in the emergency room Monday. Six were admitted.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 19 COVID-positive patients in the hospital. Of those, 16 are unvaccinated, and three are in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Four long-term COVID patients, individuals who are no longer contagious but still recovering from the effects of the coronavirus, remain in the hospital, three of whom are in the ICU and on ventilators.
HMC’s COVID unit has expanded from 16 to 18 beds.
Vaccines and boosters
The statewide vaccination rate remains fairly stagnant with just 61.5% of Hawaii’s population fully vaccinated.
This week, U.S. health authorities are expected to recommend an extra dose of a vaccine for all Americans eight months after they get their second shot, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
Currently, vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer require two doses, while a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is a single shot.
The move is being driven by both the highly contagious Delta variant and preliminary evidence that the vaccine’s protective effect starts dropping within months.
U.S. health officials last week recommended boosters for some people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and organ transplant recipients.
QNHCH will offer third-dose booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for certain immunocompromised patients.
Vaccinations are available 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, at its vaccination clinic, located on the south side of the hospital campus near the emergency room. No appointment is necessary.
Those who may qualify for the booster shot include patients who are undergoing active cancer treatment, recipients of solid-organ transplants who are taking immunosuppressive therapy, those with advanced or untreated HIV, chronic dialysis patients, and patients who have medical conditions with varied immunodeficiency such as sickle cell disease, end-stage renal disease and chronic liver disease.
Those who seek a booster, which is the same dosage as the initial vaccine, should wait at least four weeks after their second dose.
The state Department of Health on Tuesday reported 460 new cases of COVID-19 statewide amid a continuing surge driven by the Delta variant.
Of those, 84 are on the Big Island.
According to Hawaii County Civil Defense, there were 1,436 active cases on the island and 31 people were hospitalized.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a Big Island physician, said in a post on social media that 324 people are currently hospitalized across the state, 290 of whom are unvaccinated.
Hawaii County has a 7.4% test positivity rate, compared to a 7.5% positivity rate statewide.
Data from the DOH that enumerates cases found in each zip code, however, shows that 371 cases have been reported in Kailua-Kona and 372 have been reported in Hilo in the prior 14 days.
In that same time frame, 107 cases have been reported in the Keaau, Kurtistown and Hawaiian Paradise Park areas; 90 cases have been reported in the Waimea area; and 83 in the Waikoloa Village and Puako areas.
According to the DOH, 8,238 cases have been reported in Hawaii in the past 14 days. An average of 657 new cases have been reported daily Aug. 9-15.
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald