Updated: September 27, 2022
The vaccination clinic team at Maui Health was honored Friday for their outstanding efforts in helping to vaccinate Maui residents with more than 83,000 doses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Jarrett Keohokalole, chair of the Senate Committee on Health joined Senator Roz Baker and Representative Angus McKelvey of Maui in presenting the vaccination team at Maui Memorial Medical Center with a certificate of recognition from the state, acknowledging their accomplishments to date.
“It took a whole team. I would say everybody, every department contributed to this–our nutrition services [for] providing snacks, security for helping with crowd control, our auxiliary, nursing, communications was huge. It literally took every department–our facilities to help set up everything, IT. It took everybody. So it really was a team effort,” said Chrissy Miller, Employee Health Manager and Vaccine Manager at Maui Health.
Through March 9, 2022, an estimated 2,816,807 doses of vaccine have been administered statewide, including 543,414 third doses. On Maui, the state Department of Health reports that 78% (129,096) of the total population in Maui County has initiated a vaccine, 70% (115,517) have completed two doses, and 37% (61,944) have had a third or booster dose.
“They vaccinated here at the facility 70% of Maui County residents–over 83,000 doses. That’s a real accomplishment, and it’s a big part of why we’re at where we’re at with the disease, and why we’ve done so well compared to just about everywhere else nationally,” said Sen. Keohokalole, who also toured the facility to identify areas of future need.
“There is a request for funding from the legislature to support the facility [and] deal with some of the improvements that need to be made to the hospital. We also had a really interesting discussion in the ER about how their capacity, and the demand for services hasn’t gone down since the pandemic, so that was pretty surprising and important to know,” said Sen. Keohokalole.
Michael Rembis, Chief Executive Officer at Maui Health said the Maui hospital is seeing less COVID at the facility each day, but more non-COVID illness in the community, and more need for hospitalization.
“We are seeing our emergency room at all-time peaks right now, servicing people with very serious medical conditions. Many might have been postponing care during COVID, and now they’re coming in,” said Rembis.
He said the vast majority of patients in the hospital are residents that have serious medical conditions. “So our emergency room is extremely busy. No one is ever turned away. There might be waits before you’re admitted. Our staff is just doing an amazing job taking care of a lot of very sick patients at a very, very fast pace right now,” said Rembis.
According to Rembis, the hospital has a surge plan in place that can be implemented at any time.
“We can use other areas of the hospital for inpatient care if we need to. So we have the ability to expand beyond out 219 beds if necessary. And we’re starting a master planning process to see if we need to expand the hospital long-term. We’ll have a lot more information on that in 6-12 months. But we are very confident that this hospital can meet whatever is presented if we had another surge,” said Rembis.
Without difficulties, Rembis said he worries about how much the current staff can handle and far services can be stretched. “We need more medical professionals on Maui. It’s critical. We need more nurses, more techs, more housekeepers, more dietary workers. We just don’t have enough long-term to meet our growing needs as a medical community. But right now our staff is doing a great job, putting in whatever hours are necessary to take care of people on Maui,” said Rembis.
Maui Health began administering the vaccine to its employees and providers just a few days before Christmas on Dec. 23, 2020 and vaccinated nearly 2,000 healthcare workers in about the first two weeks. On Jan. 8, 2021, the hospital officially opened its MMMC Main Lobby Vaccine Clinic to the public, and in the first two weeks received more than 14,000 appointment requests.
With the support from the State Department of Health and the Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi, Maui Health increased its vaccine administration to 4,000 appointments per week, and on March 29, 2021, the hospital recorded a single day record of 871 first doses administered.
Maui Health has scaled back its vaccination clinic hours and is now offering vaccinations and boosters every Friday.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, we’re not seeing the same number of people stepping forward to get vaccinated,” said Rembis. “Maui still has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state. So we were at 800 a day. We’re down now to about 100 a week. So we have reduced our hours to Fridays now, but if we need to expand those hours, we will do whatever is necessary to vaccinate our community.”
“We’re just going to keep evaluating, and then see where we go from here,” said Miller. “Are there enough places for people to get it already–like at pharmacies or doctors offices; and are the community needs already met? That’s what we’re evaluating. What are the needs of the community, and then whatever those are, we’ll just plan accordingly. Whether we stay up because they need us, or if they don’t need us anymore, then there may just be enough venues to get it already.”
Sen. Keohokalole expressed gratitude for all of the work done to date.
“Now that the cases are starting to subside, one of the things that we want to do is come back around to all the health care workers who have been in this for so long, and have worked so hard, and say mahalo for their effort,” he said.