Hawaii wildfires burn clinic and dialysis center

Wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui have killed 36 people, consumed homes and destroyed multiple commercial buildings — including one hospital-run clinic and one dialysis center, Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii told Becker's

Mr. Raethel did not confirm the names of the two burned healthcare facilities on Aug. 9 to allow those facilities to respond to the situation, but did confirm they are both hospital-operated, not independently run. 

"We do know in Maui that they have sufficient healthcare staff at this time, and we can deploy more staff to help if we need to," he said. "We are concerned about the loss of the dialysis clinic. The other hospital clinic is working to consolidate operations and fortunately, we still have the personnel. For the dialysis clinic, we will have to find a way to expand hours of operation and even more so than what they have been doing so that we can accommodate all the patients, and if necessary, we will ship more equipment across to dialysis equipment across the valley to ensure that people do get the dialysis."

The fire's flames began ripping through central Maui and a popular area known as Lahaina Town the morning of Aug. 9. High winds from a hurricane 500 miles from shore furthered its reach, he explained. 

Maui's main hospital, Maui Memorial Medical Center, a Kaiser-run facility, remains operational and staffed and is in an urban area that would not easily be threatened by further fire spread, he said.

"Today, Maui Memorial has had 20 burn patients come in," Mr. Raethel said. Six of those patients with severe and more critical injuries were flown via air ambulance to Oahu hospitals. We have one major burn center in the state at Straub Clinic and Hospital, so some of those more critical event patients were transferred from Maui Memorial to Straub and some others to another hospital. Some of the patients with less severe injuries have already been discharged to their families. At this time, I'm told that they have at least two patients still in the ICU from burn injuries."

Kaiser has multiple locations in Hawaii and in the affected regions. A spokesperson for the health system shared the following statement with Becker's: "Our hearts go out to the people of Maui, and the community of Lahaina, as this disaster continues to unfold. Our Maui clinical teams are on the ground responding to this evolving situation. Also, our Hawaii state and Kaiser Permanente’s national teams are providing support, to ensure that the people of Maui have the care they need, as the full impact of this tragic event becomes known."

Leaders at Kaiser also joined Mr. Raethel and multiple other hospital leaders across the state of Hawaii on a call Aug. 9 along with other public officials to discuss care coordination, evacuations and next steps.

"The good news is that while the healthcare system is stretched it is not overwhelmed at this point in time," he confirmed.

On the Big Island where fires are also burning, Mr. Raethel said there are no hospitals threatened and no burn victims. 

Downed cell towers and disruptions to 911 systems have made communications more challenging, and as of the last report Mr. Raethel heard, these systems were still not up and running. 

Road closures in remote areas have made evacuations and transporting patients challenging, but air operations are fully operational and prepared for what may be next, Mr. Raethel said.

"Fortunately, all our air ambulances are operational right now and fully staffed, so we do have sufficient air ambulance support if we do need to evacuate more patients," he said. "Oahu's EMS services are also willing, if necessary, to send EMS personnel across the valley. Obviously, it's a little more challenging if we need some ambulances across there, but we could also put them in a Coast Guard C130 if necessary …" 

"It looks like we may have to evacuate between 2,000 to 4,000 people from Maui — mainly tourists," he said. "We are also looking at setting up an emergency shelter at the convention center if necessary."

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