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Out-of-state health care workers to help Hawaiʻi amid virus surge

emergency room queen's medical center hospital ambulance Virus Outbreak Hawaii Health Care
Caleb Jones/AP
In this Aug. 24, 2021, file photo an ambulance sits outside the emergency room at The Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

HONOLULU — Contracted health care workers will arrive in Hawaiʻi this weekend to help hospitals that are short-staffed and nearing capacity.

About 250 workers — mostly nurses — from the mainland will come to the state this weekend.

“Most of our hospitals, in terms of staffing, are either stretched or at critical staff levels,” said Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi's president and CEO.

Another 250 workers will arrive the following weekend as part of a plan to bring more than 900 temporary health care professionals.

The program could be funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but Raethel said the application process is not yet completed.

“We made the decision last Friday that we could not afford to wait for the official green light from FEMA because of the acute need in our hospitals,” he said.

The Queen’s Health Systems declared an “internal state of emergency” at two Oahu hospitals this week.

“Queen’s is experiencing the widespread effects of community exposures from the omicron variant,” said Jill Hoggard Green, president and CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems, in a statement.

She said more than 800 local health care workers were unable to work this week because of close contacts or confirmed COVID-19 infections.

On Friday, the state reported 3,099 new COVID-19 cases and a 19.9% statewide positivity rate.

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