Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Big Island Community Rallies to Collect PPE for Local Healthcare Workers

April 4, 2020, 6:00 AM HST
* Updated April 3, 11:53 PM
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People get screened or tested during Alii Health Center’s COVID-19 drive-thru site at Old Kona Airport. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)

A Kohala resident is leading an effort to collect personal protective equipment for healthcare workers at hospitals and clinics as they care for patients amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“As we are seeing around the world, healthcare workers are particularly exposed to the coronavirus as they work courageously to protect our communities,” said Kean Wong, organizer of supporthawaii.org. “One of the most important things that we can do right now, apart from practicing social distancing, is to help care for and protect our local healthcare workers.”

Starting April 6, Wong along with local volunteers will launch a program where donation bins for PPE will be set up at all KTA Superstores, HPM Building Supply in Hilo and Kona and K. Takata Store in Hawī.

The program is planned to run through April 30, however it could extend if donations keep coming. Volunteers will be regularly transporting the donations to the local hospitals and medical facilities.

“We are hoping that the public across the island will look around them and realize that they have surplus PPE that can really help the doctors and nurses who are spending many hours each day wearing this important safety equipment, and who desperately need additional PPE supplies as both testing and care for the virus increases on the Big Island,” Wong said.

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The list of PPE items sought can be found here: https://www.supporthawaii.org/ppe-program.

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Wong said additional volunteers are still sought to help transport the donations to the local hospitals. Those interested can contact the Wong’s group at https://www.supporthawaii.org/ppe-program.

For large donations, or for any questions, the public can email [email protected]

Additionally, the community volunteers are establishing a program to 3D print face shields for the Big Island healthcare workers.

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“We are looking for anyone with access to a 3D printer or laser cutter, or volunteers to help with assembly, sanitization, and transportation,” Wong said.

For more information or how to get involved in the program, visit https://www.supporthawaii.org/faceshield-program.

North Hawai‘i Community Hospital, Hilo Medical Center and Kona Community Hospital reached out to the community to help build up their supplies in masks, face shields and other protective gear. Big Island residents have answered the call and have provided hand-sewn masks, N95 masks and other PPE.

“We’ve received lots of really generous donations,” said Lynn Scully, spokeswoman for NHCH.

NHCH and HMC have been offering drive-through screening and testing for COVID-19 for the past three weeks. The Waimea hospital started its screening and testing for the virus on March 16. Since then, Scully said, approximately 250 people have been tested and 450-500 individuals have been screened.

As people coming to the drive-through has increased, Scully said the hospital will only screen and test Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

HMC has conducted 384 COVID-19 tests and 25 at Puna Community Medical Center. A drive-through screening and testing site was open to residents with a physician’s order. HMC is continuing drive-through testing site across the street from the hospital, adjacent to the cancer center. With hours of operation between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Elen Cabatu, public information officer for HMC, said the Hilo hospital has also received a lot of donations. Currently, the facility is stocked with the following supplies:

  • 5,500 surgical masks, which would last more than six months under regular usage.
  • 6,100 N95 masks, which would last more than a year under regular usage.
  • 810,000 gloves, which would last 52 days under regular usage.
  • 21,000 gowns, which would last 131 days, under regular usage.
  • 2,100 face shields, which would last 105 days under regular usage.

Cabatu said the visitor policy for HMC will change starting Monday. No visits to patients and only visitor is allowed for pediatric patients and baby deliveries.

Kona Community Hospital is not doing public testing. However, healthcare workers are screening and testing patients who are admitted to the hospital. KCH was unable to provide number of COVID-19 screenings and tests performed until Monday.

The Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center (KASC) is accepting PPE donations on behalf of Kona Community Hospital, which include surgical and N95 masks, gloves, gowns and other equipment. Drop off days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Screening and testing is also occurring at West Hawai‘i Community Health Center, Ali‘i Health Center and Aloha Kona Urgent Care.

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