By the start of next week, Kona Community Hospital plans to begin testing all patients being admitted to the facility.
Currently, the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. affiliate is testing admitted patients for COVID-19 based on symptoms and potential exposure as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Judy Donovan, spokeswoman for HHSC’s West Hawaii Region, which includes Kona Community and Kohala hospitals.
“We anticipate testing ALL patients getting admitted, whether they be inpatient or observation by May 18,” Donovan said. Inpatients are those receiving care and formally admitted by a doctor while those under observation are outpatients who typically stay in the hospital for a limited amount of time to determine the need for inpatient admission.
Donovan said the tests present no delay in treatment as results are typically returned within 24 hours.
“Patients get their underlying condition treated pending the COVID result,” she said.
In addition, according to Donovan, patients presenting for elective surgery will get tested within seven days of their procedure at the Kealakekua-based facility. Those using outpatient services at the facility also need to be tested within seven days of their procedure.
Through Sunday, 321 people had been tested for COVID-19 since March 12 at Kona Community Hospital. Just three have returned positive — one inpatient and two outpatients.
Meanwhile, Kohala Hospital continues to test all patients prior to admission to the acute care hospital in Kapaau. This practice has been taking place for approximately five weeks, Donovan said.
“They have a very at-risk population, and will not admit without a negative test,” she said.
Emergency department patients are tested as needed, based on symptoms, according to Donovan. To date, about 50 tests have been conducted with zero positive results.
Donovan was unable to provide figures for both hospitals on the number of employees tested and whether any positive results have been returned.
At Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea, COVID-19 testing is only performed for inpatients that have “COVID like symptoms to rule out the disease,” said spokeswoman Lynn Scully. The hospital has been testing patients who are going to have surgery or a procedure that is aerosolized-particle generating, such as a pulmonary function test, since May 4.
Regarding the number of tests conducted, Scully said the facility conducts approximately 10 tests per day, but declined comment on positive results citing patient privacy. The facility has no plans to test staff, she said in response to an inquiry on employee testing.
Meanwhile, Hilo Medical Center is planning to start testing every person admitted to the hospital this week, according to Dan Brinkman, East Hawaii Regional CEO, Hawaii Health Systems Corp. COVID-19 tests are also now required before elective or pre-planned procedures.
The three HHSC facilities (Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital and Kohala Hospital) and North Hawaii Community Hospital each have in place no visitors policies.
North Hawaii Community Hospital, which is a member of The Queen’s Health Systems, continues to offer testing in its Emergency Department 24/7 for those with symptoms or a physician’s order.
Hawaii Tribune-Herald reporter Stephanie Salmons contributed to this report.