‘A high priority’: Green pledges major relief for one of Hawaii’s most overcrowded hospitals

Hilo Medical Center is operating about 15% over capacity.
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 4:19 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2022 at 6:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of Hawaii’s most overcrowded hospitals may soon get some relief.

Gov. Josh Green has set aside $50 million to fund a much-needed bed expansion project at Hilo Medical Center. It’s one of several priorities outlined in Green’s first executive budget, specifically aimed at improving healthcare.

In addition to securing money for Hilo Medical Center, Green also wants to bolster funding for Hawaii nursing schools so they can hire the faculty they so desperately need.

But to make it happen, he’s going to need support from the state Legislature.

On Wednesday morning, Hilo Medical Center wasn’t just full. It was over capacity by 15%.

“So a simple way to look at it is we don’t have beds for 18 patients,” said Dan Brinkman, East Hawaii Region CEO for the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation.

“We’re having to hold them in temporary housing.”


The lack of staffed beds has been an ongoing problem ― one that started even before to the pandemic.

Brinkman says they’ve spent years trying to convince lawmakers to sign off on funding that would allow for more beds and a new intensive care unit.

But the $50 million project has yet to get past the planning stage.

Now that could change.

“It’s a high priority,” Green said. “Having that capacity and attracting more healthcare providers will mean that they can get care for people in the community, in Hilo, rather than having to fly to Oahu.”

Hilo Medical Center provided HNN with a rendering that shows what that new hospital wing would look like. Inside there are plans for an 18-bed intensive care unit along with an additional 36 permanent medical surgical beds.

On top of the bed expansion project, Green said, “We also have 60 positions we’re fighting for. To train more nurses. That’s $4.4 million.” He says it’s money for nursing schools to hire more instructors.

Hawaii’s faculty shortage is one of the worst in the country.

Officials say more than 800 qualified nursing school applicants were turned away last year because there weren’t enough teachers.

“If you’re going to increase capacity and infrastructure, staff ― well-trained staff are part of that equation,” Brinkman said. “I’m hopeful the Legislature will support this.”

Hawaii is in dire need of more nurses.

Currently, hospitals have brought in more than 600 traveling caregivers from the continent just to get by.