A federal medical team has arrived to assist two Oahu hospitals with caring for people with COVID-19 for the next two weeks, officials with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency announced.

Twenty-one medical personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and another 15 medical professionals from the Veterans Health Administration are now working at the Queen’s Medical Center at Hale Pulama Mau and the Kuakini Medical Center in Honolulu.

“As our State’s hospitals struggle to deal with their surges in COVID-19 patients, this assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will make a significant difference in our fight against this disease,” HI-EMA Administrator Luke Meyers said in a statement.

The federal medical team arrived Thursday to help two Queen’s Health Systems hospitals in Honolulu for the next two weeks. Courtesy: The Queen's Health Systems

These teams, along with the National Disaster Medical System, have traveled to other COVID-19 hotspots across the country to assist overwhelmed hospitals.  More than 4,160 USPHS officers have deployed during the pandemic.

The teams represent about one-fifth of what officials with Hawaii’s hospital association say the state needs.

Last month, Hawaii asked for 152 specialized nursing staff including medical-surgical telemetry nurses as well as respiratory therapists to care for the critically ill.

Healthcare Association of Hawaii President and CEO Hilton Raethel said Friday Hawaii needs even more medical personnel now than it requested.

“The federal partners sent what they could, but there are only two relatively small teams here for approximately 14 days,” Raethel told Civil Beat. “We are working on other larger and longer term civilian options. This is one part of the initiative to provide support to our hospitals and other healthcare organizations.”

Hawaii has already exhausted its other options, such as activating approximately 80 Hawaii Army National Guard doctors and other personnel, hiring other medical workers from national registries such as travel nurses, and transferring patients to other hospitals or other settings, he said.

As of Sept. 4, Hawaii hospitals were more than half full, with 65% of general hospital beds full across the state. Not all of them are COVID-19 patients, but a sudden surge in COVID-19 patients could strain hospital resources, especially staff.

Of the 2,060 hospital beds currently in use, 240 of them are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Fifty-two other COVID-19 patients are in intensive care. They, along with other critical care patients, currently occupy 63% of the state’s total ICU space.

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