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COVID outbreak at skilled Oahu nursing home amid worker shortage adds stress to facility

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HONOLULU (KHON2) – The Hawaii Nurses Association has sounded the alarm about low staffing levels in skilled nursing homes. The union president said members were overworked as at least one facility battled a COVID outbreak.

At least 54 residents and 25 staff at the Care Center of Honolulu have tested positive for COVID-19.

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“We don’t have the details of the origins of this particular outbreak, but it is a significant outbreak,” said Healthcare Association of Hawaii president and CEO Hilton Raethel. “And certainly one of the biggest outbreaks we’ve seen at any of our facilities in some time.”

A spokesperson working with the Care Center of Honolulu confirmed that the source of the coronavirus infection was traced to a patient who had been transferred to the facility.

The Care Center of Honolulu shared a statement with KHON2 News.

Like a number of nursing homes in the state, the Delta variant resulted in an outbreak of COVID in September at our facility. While 91% of our staff are vaccinated, 54 patients have tested positive, the majority of which have been vaccinated. On average, more than 80% of our patients are vaccinated.

After learning of the existence of our first infected resident, we immediately tested residents and staff at the facility and took steps to isolate infected residents and put protocols in place to protect staff and residents. We test residents and staff more often than necessary, and we are grateful to have been commended by the state Department of Health for our handling of this outbreak.

Every member of the staff at the Care Center of Honolulu has made an extraordinary effort to provide the highest standards of care to our patients. We have nothing but praise for our nurses, who, like their counterparts around the world, are meeting the challenges posed by the pandemic in heroic fashion.

We regret that our high regard for our nurses has been called into question by false statements made by the Nursing Association of Hawaii. No nurses have been suspended and we continue to work collaboratively with our nurses to manage patient care and schedules.

We agree with the Hawaii Nursing Association that there is a shortage of nurses in long-term care facilities that has become even more acute during the pandemic. We also enlisted the help of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. Our elected officials in Washington and others in the state health department are trying to find solutions to this problem facing all long-term care facilities and the health care system in general.

Honolulu Health Center

Hawaii Nurses Association president Daniel Ross said members were working longer hours to fill in worker gaps. He said that in one case a nurse was working an 8-hour shift.

Ross said, “We advised them, listen, it’s not patient abandonment if you tell them you’re not safe, that you’re not fit to work. It comes to a point, you cannot work continuously while being able to do your job safely. “

Raethel said a proposal to bring in more than 240 additional healthcare workers at a cost of $ 10 million had not received state approval. He presented the $ 10 million proposal to strengthen post-acute care facilities to members of the Hawaii House of Representatives in early September.

In the meantime, he said the institution’s attempts to bring in more staff through recruiting agencies have also been unsuccessful.

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“The facility went to a number of agencies to try to identify staff,” Raethel said. “And there were staff who were available, but didn’t want to go into a facility that is experiencing an epidemic, which also presents an additional set of challenges.”