Hawaii County has had a 91% in COVID-19 cases since August 1, and on August 25, at 2:30, the island has 74 active cases, 209 cumulative. Island Conversations host Sherry Bracken spoke with Dan Brinkman, CEO of Hilo Medical Center, since it’s the only hospital on the island right now with COVID-19 patients.
As of Tuesday, August 25, Hilo Medical Center has 10 patients with COVID-19, 4 of whom are in the Intensive Care Unit. All the COVID-19 patients are isolated–the 6 not in the ICU are in a separate hallway, that’s blocked off by plastic barriers. The 4 patients in the ICU are also blocked off by plastic barriers. All staff wears Personal Protective Equipment — gowns, gloves, shields, face masks, goggles–and the staff gets tested regularly.
HMC has 11 ICU beds –all full right now with the 4 COVID-19 patients plus 7 patients with stroke, trauma, or other conditions that need more attention. The HMC plan is to add ICU beds if needed, or move less sick patients as they can into regular hospital facilities. The bigger concern is staffing–which is something Hilton Raethel of the Health Care Association of Hawaii has mentioned as an issue for all hospitals but especially those on O’ahu. Raethel is seeking federal assistance for staffi ng, and Brinkman said HMC may ask to be added. The challenge is figuring out where and when a peak may occur. HMC and other hospitals use what’s called “travelers,” temporary hires of nurses and doctors, but right now, even those are in high demand and short supply. Brinkman said one of HMC’s plans is to ask medical professionals who are in education or management to assist with patient care if need be.
None of the COVID-19 patients are on ventilators, which are used less frequently now with COVID-19 patients. HMC has 32 ventilators, and 4 are in use now by non-COVID-19 patients.
Brinkman said research is now showing that COVID-19 is less transmitted by surfaces and more easily transmitted person to person. They are thorough and cleaning, and patients as well as healthcare providers wear N95 masks. There is a robust testing program for the HMC Staff, and so far, there have been zero cases in HMC staff. So the precautions seem to be working. The facility has 83,000 N95 masks, 2 million gloves, 4,000 face shields, and close to 200,000 surgical masks. Brinkman said he believes they can get through the current surge, but they can rapidly deplete the supply so continue to order new PPE. Brinkman said the Healthcare Association of Hawaii can provide additional supplies as needed, including things as fundamental as beds, from the supply sent to the state by the Federal government. He said the state is quite organized in this area.
Much of what the patients need in care and treatment, including Xrays and lab tests, are done at the patient’s bed. If they have to transport a patient to the imaging center, they ensure the patient is masked and sometimes shielded, as well as all staff.
The discussion is a good look at Hilo Medical Center and its current approach to COVID-19.
**Look for a later conversation with Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim about the spread of COVID-19 on the island.