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COVID-19 Outbreak in Honolulu Nursing Home Forces Staff to Overwork

Vinoth Chandar / Flickr
Vinoth Chandar / Flickr

A Honolulu nursing facility is facing a staffing shortage and management crisis caused by a COVID-19 outbreak.

As of last week, 50 of its residents and 25 staff members at the Care Center of Honolulu (CCOH) in Nuʻuanu tested positive for the virus.

The crisis caused a staff shortage paired with an increase of residents needing intensive care.

Nurses are scheduled to work 48 hours a week or four, 12-hour shifts. Sometimes they are asked to stay longer — up to 20 work hours in a day.

Daniel Ross, the president of the Hawaiʻi Nurses’ Association which represents CCOH's 25 registered nurses, said, "If this facility fails because they’re not able to provide the staff to take care of the patients, these patients could possibly get sicker and back in acute care."

"Or they could possibly end back up in acute care because they have no place to go. Lives could be lost. It backs everything up. It affects everything," Ross told HPR.

This problem is not unique to Hawaiʻi.

According to a national survey by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), 86% of nursing homes and 77% of assisted living providers said their workforce situation has gotten worse over the last three months.

Due to a national staffing shortage of nursing home workers, nearly every nursing home and assisted living community is asking their staff to work overtime.

Hawaiʻi currently employs over 600 staff from the continental U.S. through a medical surge staffing program.

The program is an arrangement between the state Department of Health (DOH) and staffing service provider ProLink. It is facilitated through HI-FEMA and funded by FEMA.

However, their contract only allows them to work for acute care, hospitalized, COVID-19 patient needs — not for nursing homes.

The DOH is currently having discussions on allowing contract clinicians to work for post-acute care.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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