Scores of kupuna receive COVID-19 vaccine in Kona

Hawaii hospitals to serve as COVID-19 vaccination hubs for independent health care workers

Hawaii hospitals to serve as COVID-19 vaccination hubs for independent health care workers

State health officials have set up vaccination hub sites at Hawaii hospitals in an effort to rapidly administer COVID-19 vaccines to independent health care workers.

The state Department of Health and Healthcare Association of Hawaii are working with hospitals in each county to ensure independent health care providers and their staff can receive the first dosage of their vaccine this month as part of the first phase of the vaccine rollout.

Hawaii’s hospitals, which are using the Pfizer vaccine for health care workers, will also serve as hubs for independent providers to receive their second, follow-up dosage 21 days later.

After health care workers and long-term facility residents and staff are vaccinated, the state will then administer COVID-19 vaccines to seniors 75 and older, along with front-line workers including first responders, corrections officers and teachers. The state plans to begin vaccinating seniors 75 and older in the next week or so.

Independent health care providers and staff who have not yet received a vaccination should complete an online survey developed by the Department of Health in order to start the process.

The information collected from the survey will be sent to the hospital closest to a provider, and the hospital will then reach out to schedule a vaccination appointment.

Those who have already completed the survey, however, should not submit it again.

Health care providers and staff at independently operated care homes and foster homes are being vaccinated through a separate process.

The vaccination hub sites by counties include:

>> Kauai: Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall (visit;

> Honolulu: Adventist Health Castle, Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Medical Center, and The Queen’s Medical Center-Punchbowl and West Oahu;

>> Maui: Maui Memorial Medical Center, Molokai General Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital; and

>> Hawaii island: Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital and North Hawaii Community Hospital.

Health care providers with a Kaiser Permanente health plan can make an appointment for vaccinations at Kaiser’s Honolulu or Waipio clinic by calling 432-2000, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Kona hospital receives COVID-19 vaccines

Kona hospital receives COVID-19 vaccines

By West Hawaii Today Staff | Monday, December 21, 2020, 12:30 p.m.

Emily Krug, pharmacy director and Kona Community Hospital CEO Jim Lee pose with a shipment of COVID-19 vaccine received Monday. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Sarah Wagner, pharmacy tech, Lisa Downing, infection prevention director, Emily Krug, pharmacy director and Kona Community Hospital CEO Jim Lee pose with a shipment of COVID-19 vaccine received Monday. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in West Hawaii, Kona Community Hospital said Monday afternoon.

Two direct shipments, one from Pfizer and one from Moderna, arrived Monday, the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) facility said in a prepared statement.

The 975 doses of Pfizer vaccine will be made available for those West Hawaii Region employees who want to receive the vaccine, including those at Kona Community Hospital, Kohala Hospital, the Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center and affiliated staff at Alii Health Center.

HHSC anticipates 700 of its staffers will be vaccinated, including 500 at Kona Community Hospital alone.

Kona Community Hospital’s COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic will go live on Wednesday. Employees and affiliated staff are currently being registered into the electronic record Vaccine Administration Management System. VAMS is a nationwide secure web-based tool will help jurisdictions, clinics, employers and vaccine recipients manage COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

The Moderna vaccine was received on behalf of the state Department of Health. This vaccine, which does not need ultra-cold storage was to be moved to the DOH district office later Monday.

“We are very excited about receiving these vaccine shipments, and look forward to vaccinating front line staff,” said Jim Lee, West Hawaii Region and KCH CEO. “We are working closely with the Hawaii Department of Health at state and local levels, as well as Healthcare Association of Hawaii to roll out vaccinations as quickly as possible.”

Kona Community Hospital to begin vaccinating staff Wednesday; Lt. Gov. says vaccine roll out ‘going well’ in Hawaii

Kona Community Hospital to begin vaccinating staff Wednesday; Lt. Gov. says vaccine roll out ‘going well’ in Hawaii

By Chelsea Jensen West Hawaii Today | Thursday, December 17, 2020, 12:05 a.m.


Staff handle trays of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which arrived Wednesday. (Photo courtesy Kaiser Permanente/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Kona Community Hospital anticipates it will begin immunizing staff for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The Kealakekua facility expects to receive one tray of 975 doses Monday afternoon, said spokeswoman Judy Donovan. The Hawaii Health Systems Corporation’s West Hawaii Region, which includes Kohala Hospital, Alii Health Center and the Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center, anticipates 700 of its staffers will be vaccinated, including 500 at Kona Community Hospital alone.

“We’ll begin vaccinations on Wednesday. Employees are definitely indicating interest in receiving the vaccine,” Donovan said.

On Tuesday, The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu administered the first five doses of the vaccine to high-risk health care workers, said Lt. Gov. Josh Green. The facility was the first in the state to receive 975 doses on Monday.

“It is exciting. It does bring hope and it’s going well,” Green said during a Honolulu Star-Advertiser Spotlight Hawaii program livestreamed Wednesday. “Yesterday, was just a little test run so that we could see the processes that we’re going to be doing.”

Green said four additional trays of 975 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine were to arrive Wednesday earmarked for Oahu’s Kaiser Permanente, Kapiolani Medical Center, Straub Medical Center, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center and The Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu.

The first five trays went to Oahu based on preorder and refrigeration capacity.

“We had to make sure that people had already well-established in advance, assured, very low temperature freezers, otherwise the vaccine becomes, as you know, useless,” he said.

Next week, Green said the state expects to receive “a lot” of the vaccine.

“It looks like in the next seven to 14 days, we’ll get about 23 additional trays. So, you’ll see how the thousands and thousands of vaccines open up,” he said, later commenting that he himself is slated to be inoculated next week.

Many of those 23 trays are going to the neighbor islands, including Kona Community Hospital, Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital, Maui Memorial Hospital and facilities on Kauai, Green said.

Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea had a less definite estimated time of arrival for the vaccine than Kona, anticipated receiving the vaccine for its staff “next week or the following week.”

“Actual vaccinations would begin a day or so afterwards depending on the arrival of the ancillary supply box,” said Lynn Scully, marketing and communications manager.

As reported earlier this week, Hilo Medical Center is expected to receive one tray of 975 doses on Monday, according to spokeswoman Elena Cabatu.

“We are preparing our vaccine clinic to administer our vaccines to our employees who are willing to take it,” she said Wednesday.

By the end of December, the state is set to receive 47 trays, each containing 975 doses, of the vaccine from Pfizer, according to Green. An additional 26,000 doses could come from Moderna, should the company’s vaccine receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval Thursday.

“These things are going to be very available as long as people are somewhat patient,” Green said, pointing to the state’s plan for vaccinating the populace. “We will get the 1a category done, and then we’ll begin to move into the other categories. So, expect to see this roll out a little slowly in the first few days and then get really ramped up in week two, three and four.”

According to the Hawaii COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, 883,600 people in Hawaii would be vaccinated during the first three stages followed by anyone who did not have access during previous allocation stages.

Green estimated Wednesday about 70% of Hawaii’s population will elect to get the vaccine.

“That’s about 980,000 people (in Hawaii). And then we’re going to be essentially immune as a state, but it’s a lot of work,” he said.

The first stage, which includes two phases, covers high-risk health workers and first-responders followed by people with comorbidities and underlying health conditions that put them at high risk and adults over age 65 living in “overcrowded settings.” An estimated 121,000 will be vaccinated during stages 1a and 1b.

That stage is anticipated to take up to two months to complete, he said pointing to the current requirement of a second shot several weeks after the first.

Stage two includes K-12 teachers and school staff; critical risk workers; people with comorbidities and underlying health conditions that put them at moderately high risk; people in homeless shelters or group homes; incarcerated individuals and staff at incarceration facilities; and all adults over age 65. An estimated 450,000 people would be vaccinated during stage two.

“Let’s say maybe your dad has high blood pressure and diabetes, and he’s 57 years old. He will be a classic phase 2 person. They’ll be contacted by his doctor,” said Green adding the state will hold community clinics and vaccination centers, as well as host various outreach campaigns to reach the populace. “That’s likely another two, three months from now where all that category is vaccinated.”

In the third stage, an additional 403,000 people would be vaccinated, including young adults between age 18 and 24 and children up to age 17. Workers in industries and occupations not included in earlier stages would also be inoculated.

“If you’re healthy, 35 years old and you don’t have any worries, you’ll be in phase 3, and that’s when just thousands and thousands of remaining people will get the vaccine — probably late spring,” Green said. “Kids will come last because, right now, they’re finishing the studies, and they’re at the very lowest risk category.”

The fourth stage would work to vaccinate an undetermined number of Hawaii residents who did not have access to or receive a vaccination during the earlier stages.

By summertime, it’s anticipated everyone who wants an immunization will be able to get one, Green said.

“I think July Fourth is a real reasonable time where we could have so many people vaccinated that we begin psychologically to think, ‘OK. Most of us are safe;’ probably still should wear a mask when we’re at gatherings, wear them in more big public places, but we will begin to put it behind us,” he said. “I think that is very possible.”

When people will have to get vaccinated again remains unclear.

“We expect it to last no less than a year,” Green said, adding studies are ongoing, though Pfizer has indicated the vaccine could last up to two years.

However, he also noted the flu shot is required each year due to mutations while the pneumonia vaccine is only needed every 10 years.

“It’s going to be somewhere in between there,” he said. “We’ll know the data by fall because millions of people are getting vaccinated and then subsequently studied.”

545 Kona Community Hospital employees test negative for COVID-19

See story by West Hawaii Today

545 Kona Community Hospital employees test negative for COVID-19

By Laura Ruminski West Hawaii Today | Sunday, July 19, 2020, 12:05 a.m.                         

Kona Community Hospital said Saturday that all but three of the 548 COVID-19 tests administered to staff on Thursday have come back negative for the virus.

The other three tests remain pending, with two outstanding and still with the lab and the third under review, according to hospital spokesperson Judy Donovan. Those results will be reported when results are confirmed with the lab.

Additionally, KCH nursing tested all 43 inpatients on the same day as a precaution, Donovan said. All results were negative with the exception of one patient, whose status was previously reported.

“We are very pleased with today’s test results, and look forward to the final tests coming back from the lab.” said Interim Chief Nurse, Stephanie Irwin. “Our staff have trained diligently in best practices for infection prevention, and today’s results verify their level of commitment to providing safe care.”

Kona Community Hospital held the mandatory on-site COVID-19 testing clinic for all staff and affiliated employees, physicians and contractors working on campus after three employees tested positive for the virus. Dr. Scott Miscovich and the Premier Medical Group Hawaii operated the pop-up testing clinic for staff.

On Saturday, a pop-up testing clinic to screen hospital families, visitors and discharged patients as well community members concerned about potential COVID exposure was held on Saturday at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

Donovan said results of Saturday’s testing will not be available until at least Monday. An estimate on the number of persons who came to the event wasn’t available as of press-time Saturday.

In order to keep staff and patients safe and ensure that the hospital is “COVID-free,” KCH and Premier Medical Group Hawaii will conduct up to three additional on-site testing clinics. Additional testing, which is the “gold standard” for detection.

On Monday, all staff providing direct patient care will be retested because they are considered high risk. On Friday, all hospital personnel, affiliated staff, providers and contractors will be tested again.

Depending on results from those tests, additional testing may be conducted on July 30.

The hospital still has a no visitor policy in place with exceptions for OB, pediatrics and those receiving end-of-life care.


Kona Hospital testing all employees, providers after 3 test positive for COVID-19

See story by West Hawaii Today

‘We needed to test everybody’: Kona hospital testing all employees, providers after 3 test positive for COVID-19

Hawaii Life Flight nurse volunteer Lori Cannon tests a Kona Community Hospital employee for COVID-19 on Thursday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

By Laura Ruminski West Hawaii Today | Friday, July 17, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

In a swift reaction to the news that three employees at Kona Community Hospital tested positive for COVID-19, the facility’s entire staff was tested for the coronavirus on Thursday.

Hospital spokesperson Judy Donovan said leadership learned of the first positive test on Friday and when the second confirmed case showed up on Tuesday, the team sprang into action.

“After the first confirmed case, we began to mobilize internally with track-and-trace,” said Donovan. “After Tuesday, we knew we needed to test everybody.”

That is when the hospital reached out Dr. Scott Miscovich of Premier Medical Group, which has been conducting pop-up screenings throughout the state and is an international COVID testing consultant.

“He said, ‘we’ll take care of everybody,’” said Donovan.

Within two days, Miscovich and his team were set up to test the Kealakekua hospital’s 470 employees plus providers, contractors, vendors and patients.

“We’re testing the full facility, 100%,” said Miscovich. “We are here to give the community assurance that the hospital will be 100% COVID-free.”

Members of the Hawaii Fire Department, EMS and the National Guard and volunteers joined Premier Medical Group staff from Oahu and the Big Island to conduct the seamless tests.

“We need to find the clusters of asymptomatic patients and isolate them because they can pass the virus to others,” said Miscovich, explaining that the virus has a five- to six-day incubation period and approximately 40% of those infected are asymptomatic. “This is how the state and county needs to address it.”

He added they are not going to stop this process until there are no active cases.

“We want this to be the model for the state,” Miscovich said of the effort.

Critical area employees, those who work in intensive care unit (ICU), emergency room, respiratory therapy, medical/surgical, imaging and lab started the testing day at 5:45 a.m. Thursday. Those employees were given the rapid test and nasal swab. If the rapid test indicated a positive result, the employee was to be immediately isolated.

Batches of nasal swabs were flown to Honolulu throughout the morning with results expected in 24 hours.

Interim Chief Nurse Executive Stephanie Irwin said the hospital’s goal was to quickly sweep through the staff.

“We want to take care of our community because our community has a partnership with us,” she said.

Follow-up tests will be performed in four days for staff in critical areas and in eight days for all employees.

Premier Medical will also have a pop-up drive-through test clinic from 8 a.m. to noon this Saturday at the West Hawaii Civic Center parking lot. The event is geared toward family of staff, patients, visitors and anyone who came through the hospital on or after July 8 and may be concerned about possible exposure.

Irwin said those coming to Saturday’s testing should bring their insurance card and ID.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 204 patients at KCH have been tested with six positive results for COVID-19, Donovan said. Three of those cases were inpatient with the remaining three outpatients coming through the emergency room and able to isolate at home.

The hospital still has a no visitor policy in place with exceptions for OB, pediatrics and those receiving end-of-life care.

“We are doing this because it’s the right thing to do,” said Jay Kreuzer, the hospital’s acting CEO.

A gift from the heart: Anonymous donor secures, transports thousands of masks for front-line worker

A gift from the heart: Anonymous donor secures, transports thousands of masks for front-line worker

By Special to West Hawaii Today | Monday, May 25, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Dr. Frank Sayre, center, distributes sterile surgical masks donated by an anonymous donor to the Keauhou Fire Station. Courtesy Photo

Tens of thousands of sterile surgical masks have reached Hawaii Island’s front-line workers thanks to an anonymous donor.

The donor flew in 54,000 masks on May 13 and another 36,000 masks on Saturday that are being distributed to front-line response teams through the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation.

To date, PPE supplies that have been nearly impossible to obtain have been provided to the Hawaii Fire Department, Hawaii Police Department, Kona Community Hospital, North Hawaii Community Hospital, Kohala Hospital, Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center, Alii Health Center for Cardiology, Orthopedics, Obstetrics/Gynecology Pediatrics, Gastroenterology and General Surgery, HOPE Services; and numerous medical, dental and veterinary offices.

These masks are among over 600,000 pieces of needed PPE that the donor secured at a cost of approximately $25 million to allow essential workers to “get back to work safely.“ It is part of the donor’s company’s philosophy to give back to communities and to continue to make a difference in the world.

Hawaii Fire Department Chief Darren Rosario and Battalion Chief Bill Bergin coordinated these efforts with Dr. Frank Sayre and Laura Mallery-Sayre, founders of the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation.

“It has been a true honor to be a part of this amazing effort to protect lives during this COVID-19 pandemic. We have such gratitude for our donor and his amazing heart!” Laura and Frank said.

COVID-19 crisis suppresses visits to Big Isle hospitals, clinics

COVID-19 crisis suppresses visits to Big Isle hospitals, clinics

 By STEPHANIE SALMONS Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Monday, May 18, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Fewer patients are visiting Big Island emergency rooms and urgent care clinics due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and that is having a negative impact on their revenue.

Dan Brinkman, East Hawaii Regional CEO, Hawaii Health Systems Corp., said Hilo Medical Center averaged between 4,000 and 4,200 visits a month prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders issued by Gov. David Ige.

The hospital is now averaging between 2,800 and 3,000 visits, a 38% to 40% percent decline.

“It’s understandable, given the request for the governor’s order to stay at home,” Brinkman said. “I think a lot of people have taken that very serious, as we can see with the low COVID rates on our island, and I think our community has done a really good job following those directives.”

Because of those directives, Brinkman said people are limiting activities. There are fewer accidents, no more cruise visitors and fewer trauma injuries.

That’s resulted in fewer emergency room visits, but Brinkman said he’s concerned some patients are following the stay-at-home order to their detriment and seeking care after waiting far too long to do so.

“We’re seeing less overall patients in the ER. However, of the patients that we see, we’re admitting a higher percentage of them because they’re sicker.”

Brinkman said there’s been an increase in the number of patients admitted from the emergency room — up from about 12% to 17%-18%

“It’s a phenomenon that’s happening across the country,” said Brinkman. “Patients are sicker, waiting perhaps a bit long for their care. It’s understandable, but we’re hopeful as the community starts to reopen (and) some of the restrictions are lifted, that trend will reverse itself and people will feel more comfortable getting the care they need.”

But a decline in patients means a big hit to the hospital’s finances.

Brinkman said the hospital is projecting a $26 million drop in revenue through the end of the calendar year.

“We’ve seen declines in our elective surgeries, in clinic visits. Collectively, it’s cost us a lot.”

That projection, however, could balloon should there be a surge in COVID-19 cases.

According to Brinkman, combined revenue for the East Hawaii Region, which also includes the hospitals in Ka‘u and Honokaa, is around $260 million.

The hospital has received $21 million in federal funding as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“That will offset a good portion of that $26 million, which is good news,” Brinkman said. “We also started this whole crisis in pretty solid financial condition, so we have some reserves.”

HMC’s goal is to avoid reductions in services or layoffs or pay cuts, despite the persistence of the virus threat, he said.

“We’re hopeful we can manage that transition, because all hospitals are going to have to adjust their services, adjust how they’re going to do their business. Our goal is to do that without disrupting the health care in the community.”

Elsewhere in Hilo, declining patient counts are having a similar impact.

“As far as the numbers are concerned, we’re probably down about 60% of the patient load we normally see,” said Brenda Dunne, director of operations at Hilo Urgent Care.

Revenue is down about 60%, too.

Looking into her parking lot Friday, Dunne said there was maybe one car that didn’t belong to her staff, “which is really scary, because normally Monday and Friday are our busiest days.”

Typically, she has two doctors and three nurses working those days, but had to cut back to one doctor and two nurses.

“We’re happy that people are being safe, but as far as business is concerned, I don’t know how we’re going to do it if it continues to be this way,” Dunne said.

Making the situation more difficult, Dunne said, is the clinic’s income is based solely on patients who visit.

“If we don’t have patients coming in, we don’t have income coming in,” she said. “Every single patient are our paychecks. We do not have any funding from the state or from the federal government. That’s a huge hit for us.”

The clinic did apply for and received help from the Paycheck Protection Program, a U.S. Small Business Administration loan that helps businesses keep their workforces employed during the COVID-19 crisis.

“… When that is out, we shall see,” Dunn said.

The number of emergency room visits are down in other Big Island hospitals, too.

At Kona Community Hospital, a part of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., emergency room visits are down as well.

Chief Financial Officer Dean Herzog said the hospital’s emergency room had about 65 visits per day before stay-at-home orders were implemented but now have about 30.

Admissions also decreased from about 300 per month to about 200, and demand for all services is down by about 33%, he said.

Herzog said, too, that all hospital revenues are down by about a third, but federal stimulus dollars will help offset the losses. He did not say how much money the hospital will be receiving.

Apart from COVID-19 testing, which is available in its emergency room, ER visits to Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea have decreased between 20% and 30%, spokeswoman Lynn Scully said.

Like HMC, Scully said NHCH’s biggest concern is making sure people get the care that is needed and not waiting.

“It is usually easier to treat things earlier instead of waiting,” she said. “Emergencies don’t stop because of a pandemic, and we would like the community to know that their local emergency rooms are open and available for people’s urgent needs 24/7.”


Medical staff honored with flyover

Medical staff honored with flyover

By West Hawaii Today Staff | Saturday, May 16, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Staff from two Hawaii Island hospitals made it outside Thursday to see the Hawaii Air National Guard and 15th Wing Active Duty Airmen from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam perform a flyover in a salute to all frontline workers battling COVID-19.

The KC-135 Stratotanker flew over Kona Community Hospital and North Hawaii Community Hospital Thursday afternoon as part of routine training sorties.

Inspired by the Air Force’s Operation American Resolve Salutes campaign, the flyover was intended to provide a salute to all the health care professionals, frontline responders, and essential personnel working to keep everyone safe and healthy during these unique times.


Kona Community Hospital reports first inpatient case of COVID-19

Kona Community Hospital reports first inpatient case of COVID-19

The patient tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday, according to a statement provided by KCH spokeswoman Judy Donovan. The patient, a resident, has no history of travel.

The adult, who is in stable condition, is the first COVID-19 patient to be admitted to the Kealakekua hospital.

“Kona Community Hospital has been actively preparing with our federal, state, and county partners to respond to a confirmed novel coronavirus case since February,” said Infection Prevention and Employee Health director Lisa Downing, RN, in a statement. “Our top priority is maintaining the health and safety of our staff and patients.”

The state Department of Health’s on-call virologist was consulted and is supporting the hospital’s care management of this patient that includes precautions to protect patients and staff, Donovan said.

According to the statement, the hospital’s house supervisor, emergency department and medical unit leadership and staff were all briefed upon notification of the positive test. All precautions were reviewed with the infection prevention director and the incident command team leader.

The hospital is currently following its emergency plans, which include minimizing the number of employees who enter the patient’s room; following precautions defined by CDC that include standard, contact, airborne and eye protection; and isolating the patient.

The hospital’s House Supervisor, Emergency Department and Medical Unit leadership and staff were all briefed upon notification of the positive test. All precautions were reviewed with the infection prevention director and the incident command team leader.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health announced Thursday afternoon one new case of COVID-19 on Hawaii Island, bringing Hawaii County’s total to 68. Of those cases, 39 have been cleared and released from isolation.

Including the admission announced Thursday, two Hawaii County individuals have been hospitalized. The first was a worker at McDonald’s in Kona who tested positive and was transported earlier this month to Oahu for treatment, according to state Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson, who has stated repeatedly the case will be included in Hawaii County’s tally.

The new Big Island case was among four new positive cases announced statewide on Thursday. One case was on Oahu and two were on Maui. All are adult residents.

Hawaii has now recorded 596 cases of COVID-19 since Feb. 28. Six of those cases were Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.

To date, more than 26,600 people have been tested by private and state laboratories for the novel coronavirus.

No new COVID-19-related deaths were reported Thursday. The statewide death toll remained at 12.