$48M in federal aid to assist Hawaiʻi with COVID-19 surge staffing

Maui Memorial Medical Center Emergency Room entrance. PC: Wendy Osher (January 2022)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Hawai‘i with a $47.9 million grant to support local hospitals fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and hire nearly 1,000 new nurses and medical staff.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded the funds to provide for surge medical staffing at local hospitals and clinics throughout Hawaiʻi, according to announcements made this morning by US Senator Brian Schatz and Congressman Ed Case.

The funds will help as the state deals with the current omicron variant surge, largely responsible for record COVID-19 cases throughout Hawai‘i.

“As we continue fighting the pandemic, it’s critical that our hospitals have the resources and staffing they need to provide high-quality care to families across Hawai‘i,” said Sen. Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This new federal funding will help hospitals hire more nurses and medical staff and keep people healthy.”

“This is great news for our severely overextended hospitals struggling with staffing shortages and health care workers closing in on two straight years of very difficult conditions as they continue to deal not just with record COVID cases but other often-deferred medical needs,” said Case, a member of the House Appropriations Committee responsible for the funding of federal government agencies, departments and organizations.

Last month, the state’s Department of Health—in consultation with health care facilities across Hawai‘i—submitted a formal request to FEMA for 700 clinicians to return to Hawai‘i if COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm hospitals in the islands, as it now is. Since then, the state’s request for surge medical staffing was updated to 955 clinicians to address the recent spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations because of omicron.

The funding from FEMA will be used to hire more than 900 temporary medical staff for hospitals across Hawai‘i for three months, including nurses, case managers, pharmacists, therapists, and other medical staff. Additional FEMA grant funding to support this temporary medical staffing is expected in the coming months.

Today’s funding follows last month’s announcement of more than $37 million in federal funding under the American Rescue Plan for 391 health care providers to provide care for families across the state.

Case said the FEMA award will also assist the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency to fund emergency protective measures as a direct result of the pandemic.

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