Hospital CEO Warns Hawaii On Track To Exceed Health System Capacity

Aug 4, 2020

After a record-breaking 207 new cases of coronavirus logged by the Department of Health on Monday, the head of a local hospital group warns that Hawaii is on track to outstrip its hospital capacity.

Hawaii Pacific Health CEO Ray Vara made the comments following the regular meeting of the State House of Representatives Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness.

“If we continue of this trend of triple digit numbers for the next 7-10 days, we’re going to begin stressing those capacities pretty quickly,” Vara warned.

Hawaii Pacific Health operates four hospitals on Oahu and Kauai, including Kapiolani, Straub, Pali Momi, and Wilcox. The group has been modeling the spread of COVID-19 for months with the goal of preventing an overwhelmed healthcare system, as was seen in New York.

Vara says until recently, the growth in new cases was both predicted by the HPH model and within safe levels. However, that was predicated on the state maintaining an effective testing and contact tracing program and individuals in the community adhering to masking and social distancing rules. Vara says neither now appears to be true.

“All evidence is that there is a breakdown of those assumptions, both on the state side in terms of contact tracing as well as the individual personal behaviors around the community,” he explained.

Large public gatherings at beaches and parks around the state have been observed in recent weeks, including one cited by the state Emergency Management Agency this past weekend at Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore.

Last week, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources closed Polihale State Park on Kauai after more than 1,000 people were observed camping, most without a permit.