Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Would Oahu hospitals be ready if a disaster struck here?

by Larry Geller

I’ve run a series of articles on the same question, and asked people who should know—Does Oahu have enough ER capacity if a disaster should strike? So far, no answer.

Since the two former St. Francis hospitals closed, ambulances have been diverted when one emergency room or another is unable to accept another patient. The closure sharply exacerbated an already growing problem. Reporter Helen Altonn wrote in 2006, quoting Dr. Bill Lee, emergency physician in charge of the ER at Straub Clinic (my emphasis added):

Straub's 12-bed ER has had a 10 to 15 percent increase in patients per year, Lee said.

"There is no capacity to handle a crisis," he said.

"We can't get patients out of the hospital, and we can't get them in the hospital and we have backup in the emergency room. ... There are multiple reasons why there is overcrowding, and you just couldn't build a big enough emergency room to accommodate everybody."

A domino effect occurs as ambulances are rerouted from one ER to another because they are full, a CAT scanner or something is not working or a specialist is not available, the ER doctors said.

"Suddenly you're getting another hospital's patients, and suddenly your capacity is overrun…"

[Star-Bulletin, Hospital ERs fall victim to success,7/10/2006]

I would like to know, in the face of the Boston bombing, that Honolulu hospitals would be able to handle the emergency as well as Boston hospitals have. What is the plan?

What is the answer to this question?

Update: Sorry I didn’t see it sooner—a City Council committee is to hold a hearing on this issue at 10:00 a.m. in the Council meeting room on the 2nd Floor of Honolulu Hale. The article was on p. B3 of this morning’s Star-Advertiser.


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