It’s Never Been Safer To Enter Hawaii Hospitals


About the Authors

Hilton Raethel

Hilton Raethel is president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

Melinda Ashton

Melinda Ashton is the executive vice president and chief quality officer of Hawaii Pacific Health.


When the COVID-19 pandemic required us to shelter in place, an image emerged on social media: hospital workers in scrubs, gowns, and masks, held signs saying, “We stay here for you. You stay home for us.”

The message was clear. Stay home in order to prevent spread of COVID-19, and flatten the curve of infections so that the hospitals would not be overrun.

And you know what?  People in Hawaii did stay home.

They also wore masks, washed their hands with soap and water, and practiced social distancing. Hawaii flattened the curve better than nearly every other state in the nation.

At this juncture, we want to thank everyone for playing a part in this success. Because you did flatten the curve, the hospitals could care for Hawaii’s COVID-19 patients, plus other patients needing emergency hospitalization, without being overrun.

Queens Hospital Emergency sign. 14 feb 2017

Hawaii hospitals are open to help residents with their pressing health needs.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The hospitals did not run out of personal protective equipment, and that’s in part because flattening the curve meant they didn’t burn through as much PPE as they might have if there had been more COVID-19 patients needing care.

And it means that now, after two deeply stressful months, Hawaii is able to carefully re-open. Hawaii’s hospitals, which had halted elective procedures in order to conserve staffing and PPE, have started booking appointments again.

Keeping COVID At Bay

We know people have doubts about resuming care that takes them into a hospital, and that is entirely understandable. But we want to assure the public that it has never been safer to enter one. So much has been learned about this previously unknown virus and how it behaves, how it is spread, and successful strategies to keep it at bay.

All of this new knowledge has been employed to keep our patients safe when seeking care. Physically, hospitals and medical offices have adapted to the current environment. Floor plans have been changed to ensure social distancing. Patients will wear masks to appointments and have their temperatures checked before gaining entrance. Visitation, which had been severely limited during the shutdown, is being relaxed enough to allow for one caretaker or visitor at a time, but will still be strictly controlled.

And, while it was important for patients to stay away from their doctor’s office and the hospitals because we were unsure how severely affected our health care system would be, it is time to change that approach. We have heard of people holding off on emergency care when a heart attack or stroke may be happening, and this is worrisome.

Time is of the essence when there is a life-threatening injury or illness, and people should seek care as soon as possible. Delaying care out of misplaced fear regarding the safety of hospitals may lead to more severe illness and more complicated care needs.

It is also important for people to take care of urgent procedures and medical appointments for chronic conditions. A knee replacement surgery may be considered an elective procedure, but people living with severe knee pain may not be able to walk or care for their families.

Time is of the essence when there is a life-threatening injury or illness.

Neglecting conditions such as diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart failure can lead to significant consequences. If health issues are neglected they could become life-threatening events.

We also encourage people to take care of their mental health.  After the financial and emotional stresses of the last two months, some people who have never visited a mental health professional may want to seek help from their primary care physician or from a behavioral health specialist.

Whatever a person’s health needs, hospitals, surgery centers and medical offices are open, safe, and available to meet your needs. Our healthcare workers showed dedication and continued working. You stayed at home. Now, whether it is for a screening, surgery, or immunization, our doctors, nurses and technicians are here, to help you.

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About the Authors

Hilton Raethel

Hilton Raethel is president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

Melinda Ashton

Melinda Ashton is the executive vice president and chief quality officer of Hawaii Pacific Health.


Latest Comments (0)

In American hospitals alone, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that hospital acquired infections account for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 associated deaths each year - and this was before Covid 19.  Hospitals have always been dangerous places to be, and have gotten more so with the interference of profit driven medical decision making.

Frank_DeGiacomo · 3 weeks ago

Sounds like the doctors are hurting for patients!! Honestly, if it’s not an emergency procedure, its best to lie low and wait it out. Doctors clinic waiting rooms, airplanes etc. have too many germs floating around for my comfort

kbaybaby · 3 weeks ago

During this pandemic, I find it interesting with the huge decrease in people going to doctors and hospitals, there hasn't been a huge uptick in deaths due to other diseases.As scary and devastating the Covid-19 is, it seems to have cured a lot of ailments that Americans have been seeking doctors assistance for. The pandemic has made most of us aware of the contagiousness of germs and viruses and our social responsibility of preventing our health problem being shared. Along with flattening the curve of coronavirus, there has been a flattening of the rate of the common cold and flu.In the long run, this pandemic could very well improve the health of Americans. 

Joseppi · 3 weeks ago

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