On Friday, October 29, a group of community members gathered at the intersection of Mahalani Street and Kaahumanu Avenue in Wailuku to wave signs in support of Maui’s healthcare professionals. Healthcare workers that were lauded as heroes while caring for the community over the past 20 months are now facing termination over non-compliance with a vaccine mandate.
Among those that came out to show support for Maui’s healthcare workers was Cullan Bell. Bell stated he was there to show support for medical professionals but also shared that he is standing up for his wife, who is subject to the same type of vaccine mandates and coercion by her employer.
In August, Maui Health stated that it would require all employees to be fully vaccinated no later than October 1. Maui Health, which includes Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital, and Lanai Community Hospital, said it would allow exemptions for medical reasons or religious beliefs. The deadline for approval of such exemptions is today. Healthcare workers who do not have an approved medical or religious exemption will be placed on administrative leave without pay effective November 1.
Sources inside the hospital, who spoke on the condition they not be identified, stated nurses at Maui Memorial Medical Center will be placed on leave starting Monday. Sources further disclosed that there is a large group of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded travel nurses on stand-by and ready to take the positions of the nurses placed on leave.
In August, FEMA began sending multiple waves of traveling clinicians to the islands to help aid with a Covid surge. Maui Memorial Medical Center received 20 emergency nurses on August 23. At the time of the nurses’ arrival, Maui Memorial Medical Center spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda stated there were 40 Covid patients in the hospital with five in the intensive care unit and two on ventilators.
Over 720 traveling clinicians were sent to Hawaii under FEMA contracts, which are set to expire on November 13. Hilton Raethel, the President and CEO of Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said some traveling clinicians are being asked to extend their contracts and 111 have agreed. Hospitals will be responsible for paying any traveling clinicians who remain here in Hawaii beyond November 13.