Hotels for Healthcare Heroes Program Is A Great Public Service Project

The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association’s “Hotels for Healthcare Heroes” (HFHH) program is a commendable project. From Sept. 17 through the end of October 2021 (each weekend), frontline medical workers (doctors, nurses and clinical support) can stay at a participating hotel for free for two nights.

This is a wonderful service of aloha for our frontline medical workers who are often underappreciated for their sacrifices over this very trying pandemic.HLTA president Mufi Hannemann said the HFHH program is a way to show appreciation to the group of medical professionals who have been working day and night throughout the pandemic.

“Let’s show our aloha, let’s show our mahalo,” Hannemann said. “Let’s make sure that we can provide some needed rest and relaxation for our healthcare professionals to recharge their batteries to be able to decompress so that they are rested and they’ll be at their best when they’re working in the hospitals and clinics.”

Medical Workers Burnout
The pandemic has been in the US for some 17-plus months and taking a toll on this group. A Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation survey on frontline medical workers in the US found an overwhelming 55% of frontline health care workers reported burnout (defined as mental and physical exhaustion from chronic workplace stress).

A majority of all health care workers (62%) reported some mental health repercussions like depression, anxiety and mental distress.

The mental health issues, health experts say, are related to witnessing COVID-19 deaths, extra long working hours, and a work-life imbalance (due to those overtime hours for such a long duration of months).

And if putting in extra hours hasn’t been physically stressful enough, our frontline medical workers have had to endure mental and emotional stress caused by Covid. They’ve been seeing death after death. And many have reported feeling stressed over their own health and safety, and the possibility of taking home the virus to their family.

Program should be extended
HLTA’s Hotels program is such a great service because it goes to the heart of what is needed to help our overstressed, overworked frontline medical workers: relaxation, recovery and rest.

If it’s possible as tourism is slowly opening up (and once again paused), vacant hotel rooms ought to be in use and the HFHH program should be extended beyond October.

The frontline medical workers more than likely will be spending money in other ways that the hotel or vendors and restaurants on the hotels’ property could benefit from.

Cancellation of trips by mainland visitors due to the current Covid flair up frees up rooms. And instead of laying off workers again, frontline medical workers (cleared of COVID-19 and would not be adding Covid cases as tourists potentially could) can use those empty rooms and spend money while on their staycation. It could be a win-win situation.

Hotels that haven’t signed onto the program should be encouraged to do so. Currently, a little over 50 hotels across the state have signed up to donate free two-night staycations on Fridays and Saturdays.

Hospitalizations up
At a few Hawaii hospitals tents have been set up outside the building due to overcrowding and shortage of hospital beds. Since late August 2021, hospitalizations at local hospitals have been near-full or at full capacity. Medical grade oxygen are also short and constantly being shipped in. Medical personnel from out of state have also been shipped in to meet the demand for staffing at hospitals.

Part of the problem with hospital over capacity is getting patients out to long-term care facilities that are also overcrowded with Covid-patients.

The spike in coronavirus cases started in July as people returned to work, as tourists have returned to the islands and many businesses have resumed operations.

The surge in hospitalizations is a major reason cited by Governor David Ige to discourage tourists from visiting and locals from traveling temporarily until the end of October.

Giving thanks
Everyone is exhausted over the pandemic. You can imagine how worn-out, burnt-out frontline medical workers are. Kudos to the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association and all participating hotels for showing their gratitude to our frontline medical workers.

To our frontline medical workers, we want to say thank you for your life-saving and invaluable work helping to keep our families, friends and communities healthy. Mahalo and Mabuhay!

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