Traveling Health Care Workers Coming to HMC

September 29, 2020, 7:30 AM HST (Updated September 29, 2020, 6:36 AM)
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Hilo Medical Center. File photo.

More health care workers are coming to Hilo Medical Center to assist in filling staffing gaps.

Two traveling nurses, one for ICU and one for medical surgical, had orientation Monday. On Oct. 5, another ICU nurse, four medical surgical nurses and one respiratory therapist will join the HMC team. The traveling health care workers are part of the Department of Health’s initiative to bring nurses and other specialists to help Hawai‘i’s hospitals over the next four months.

The nurses and specialists will be tested for COVID-19 before they begin work at the hospital. They will be in Hilo for eight weeks then another wave of health care workers will come after that, said HMC Spokeswoman Elena Cabatu.

With 15 COVID-19-positive patients — two in ICU, 12 in the COVID unit and one in the extended care facility — staffing at the hospital has been a little tight as there are a lot of patients in house right now, Cabatu explained.

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Cabatu said staff rotates through the COVID unit. Other areas in the hospital are falling short for various reasons.

“Overall, they’re here helping the greater good,” Cabatu said of the traveling nurses and specialists.

COVID testing for Extended Care Facility staff and residents conducted on Sept. 24 have all returned negative. Retesting of 52 staff and 28 residents took place again on Monday. Admissions to the facility remain paused until the situation is resolved.

Hawai‘i County has a total of 28 deaths related to COVID-19. Twenty-six were residents from Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home. Over the past few days there have been no additional deaths or reported infections among veterans or staff.

As of Monday, there were 71 residents and 35 employees who’ve tested positive for the virus since the outbreak in the facility, which started in August. Forty-nine residents are currently at the veterans home, 17 of which are receiving care in the facility’s COVID-designated area. Three veterans are being treated at HMC.

The latest round resident and staff testing yielded all negative results. Additionally, 25 residents and 29 employees have recovered from the virus.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.

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