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Hawaii hospitals seek more nurses for coronavirus response

September 1, 2020 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii health care officials have issued an urgent call for nurses to assist the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as hospitals experience an influx of patients.

Officials in the private, public and nonprofit health care sectors are collaborating to bring more nurses to Hawaii to address the increasing caseload resulting from the virus outbreak, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Hospitals trying to deal with the spread of the virus are already short-staffed, said Daniel Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association OPEIU Local 50, which represents about 4,000 members.

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Hawaii’s daily new coronavirus case counts have remained in the triple digits for nearly a month.

“It’s only going to get worse as time goes on,” Ross said.

The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, just one of the Hawaii hospitals in need of staff, is seeking an additional 40 to 60 nurses for critical care, telemetry, medical and surgical units, emergency care and inpatient dialysis.

Democratic Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation waiving licensing requirements to enable recent graduates to provide support assistance such as screening and administrative work.

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii, the Hawaii State Center for Nursing and the Hawaii Healthcare Emergency Management Coalition recently launched a recruiting campaign aimed at new graduates and experienced nurses.

Healthcare Association of Hawaii President Hilton Raethel said it also activated the part-time Hawaii Medical Reserve Corps in collaboration with the Hawaii Healthcare Emergency Management Coalition.

Director Laura Reichhardt said the Hawaii State Center for Nursing has had a large response from available nurses and graduates.

“We need their support and work immediately,” Reichhardt said.

Officials have contacted staffing agencies in search of traveling nurses for temporary employment, but there is great demand nationwide, said Mimi Harris, vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer at The Queen’s Health Systems.

“Everybody is competing for travel nurses right now,” Harris said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.