(BIVN) – On Wednesday, Hawaiʻi Lieutenant Governor Josh Green joined the Hawaiʻi County Council (via video conference) during the council meeting in Hilo, where he shared important information on how the Big Island’s health care system and the COVID-19 pandemic intersect.
“Let me get into a little bit of nitty-gritty, because I know that these numbers are helpful to share,” Lt. Gov. Green told the council.
Green, who is also a medical doctor, has been named to serve as the COVID-19 Healthcare Liaison (and continues to do so).
Green started his talk with an explanation of what is known about the COVID-19 virus, and why Governor David Ige’s stay-at-home order is so critical.
“The big picture on the state is we have a shortage of health care providers and health care facilities, as you know,” Green told the council. “We are working constantly to try to improve that but it’s hard. This Big Island is even in a worse situation, as is Maui and Kauai. We have a greater shortage of healthcare providers than even the rest of the state. The state has about a 22% percent shortage of healthcare providers across all disciplines; Big Island has a 40% percent shortage of healthcare providers.”
“And as to beds for hospitals, because when COVID-19 does start affecting people and sending them to the hospital – about five out of every hundred people that get COVID-19 end up in serious condition and need serious hospital support – it will flood the hospitals and overwhelm them just like that, if we have a big surge,” Green said.
“Statewide we have 3,031 licensed hospital beds,” the Lieutenant Governor reported. “As of two days ago – and we get these numbers updated very frequently – we were at 65% percent occupancy. That meant that 1,970 beds were occupied out of our 3,031.”
“We also are capable of surging our capacity”, Green said, “to a number of 437 additional beds statewide for intensive care purposes. On the Big Island, Hilo Hospital is particularly well positioned. They’re able to surge their capacity by 67%. That’s why I went and toured Hilo Hospital and Kona Hospital, to make sure we have extra surge capacity.”
“We have 328 ICU beds as of this moment,” Green said. “204 negative pressure isolation rooms. That’s to keep people quarantined, and so they can’t spread virus if they’ve got it. And somewhere between 431 and 560 ventilators, depending on what they put up operationally. But we can get up to 560 without difficulty.”
Green says that means Hawaiʻi has “1,061 additional beds available, plus the 437 if we had to surge. So, about 1,500 additional hospital beds. But here’s the rub. If we allowed COVID-19 to roll right through the state of Hawaiʻi, and we got, say, 40% percent of our people getting sick,” Green said as an example, “40% percent of 1.4 million. You can do the math very easily.
That’s about 500,000 people.”
“So, when 500,000 people suddenly get sick, and of that… 5% percent end up needing severe hospitalization, that is a large number. 10% percent would be 50,000. 5% percent is 25,000 people needing serious care in the critical care capacity with ICU beds,” Green explained.
“In the very best of circumstances, we only have 328 ICU beds and some surge capacity,” Green said. “So if we went up a peak and down a peak really fast, like happened in Italy, and some large part of those 25,000 people or more surged to the hospital, we would have to choose who to give care to. Whether some people would get ICU beds and some wouldn’t. Some get ventilators. Some don’t. Some get that breathing tube. That’s what I’m speaking about. So the necessary choice to slow down the virus, to do home quarantine, total isolation.”