Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023|
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Hilo Medical Center is experiencing a high influx of patients and is overcapacity.
HMC on Thursday reported 13 holds in the Emergency Department, 13 patients in the overflow areas, and 37 patients waitlisted for beds elsewhere. Waitlisted means they are looking for a long-term space to obtain care outside of their homes and HMC.
“Not only have we gotten more full than we were during COVID, it’s been something that’s been ongoing here for the last couple of months,” East Hawaii Regional CEO Dan Brinkman said Thursday.
Brinkman said it is a statewide issue.
“Across the state, there are more in-patients in the 13 acute hospitals than there ever has been, and more than there were during the COVID peak,” he said.
Previously, HMC had 124 acute beds to care for patients, but it has been granted an emergency waiver to add an additional 24 beds to the extended care facilities in the south wing. All but six of those are occupied.
“Today, with 124 being full, we have 168 acute patients to care for,” said Brinkman. “That’s almost a 35% increase over being full.”
HMC released a list of factors for the high patient counts which included a continuous flow of sicker patients seeking care for a variety of issues, such as COVID-19, and a limited capacity to accept hospital patients due to staffing shortages caused by COVID outbreaks.
“COVID is only a small piece of it,” said Brinkman. “It added a few patients, but it’s not the issue.”
The high number of patients awaiting discharge so they can be released to other facilities for care also is causing longer waiting times in the Emergency Department.
“Our private long-term care facilities on the island have had to limit their number of beds that they can staff,” said Brinkman, citing staffing shortages. “Because of the economics of operating at a reduced level, they’re much more particular about what patients they can take.”
Brinkman and HMC outlined several solutions to tackle the rising number of patients, including opening additional beds in the Extended Care Facility and other patient care areas, requesting staff work overtime, and bringing in additional traveling nurses.
Additional help is expected from the launching of a Nurse Aide Training Program, asking staff to enroll in the Critical Care Nurse Training Program, and doubling enrollment for the Nurse Residency Program to accommodate and train 45 new nurses and local graduates.
“That doesn’t fix everything right away, but because this high census has dragged along so long, and I don’t see that it’s going to go away immediately, these type of longer term solutions are really helpful,” said Brinkman. “If we have to, we’ll keep the travelers and the new graduates to make sure we have enough staff.”
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