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Mayor not taking position on calls to oust hospital leaders

He remains concerned about virus cluster but calls hospital safe

As Maui Memorial Medical Center-related coronavirus cases ticked up Monday, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said he’s concerned about the cluster but declined to take a position on whether hospital leaders could have done more to prevent it.

“Obviously, I’m very concerned of any cluster, especially in the health care area,” he said during an afternoon news conference.

On Monday, state health officials reported three more cases (two employees and one patient) tied to Maui Memorial; this brings the total of hospital-related cases to 34 individuals.

Nearly 200 patients who came in contact with hospital workers infected by the coronavirus were notified as of Monday, and that number is likely to rise, the state COVID-19 Joint Information Center told The Maui News on Monday evening.

With the hospital under a microscope due to the cluster, a petition was launched calling for the resignation of four top hospital leaders over allegations of mismanagement that put staff and patients at risk. The change.org petition, started by a hospital nurse, went online Saturday morning and had nearly 5,000 signatures as of Monday night.

Victorino declined to take a position on the petition Monday.

“I believe there is some challenges, but they are being met by the state Department of Health as well as Maui Health,” he said. “I’m allowing them to do what they need to do. But I will leave it up to the people if they think change needs to be made, let them decide, let them work with the administration, but let’s give them a chance to get their job done first.”

State Health Director Bruce Anderson also declined comment on the petition, according to the state COVID-19 Joint Information Center.

“Because Maui Memorial Medical Center is not a state-run facility, and Dr. Anderson has no control over MMMC, it may not be appropriate for him to comment on any calls for resignation of anyone at MMMC,” the center told The Maui News.

Maui Memorial is run by Kaiser-affiliated Maui Health System, which also operates Kula Hospital, Lanai Community Hospital and associated clinics.

Maui Health could not be immediately reached Monday afternoon, but officials have said they have done everything to keep employees and the community safe.

Victorino believes Maui Memorial is safe and said that “they do a lot of cleaning up and disinfecting.”

He added that a shortage of personal protective equipment is a big issue and that the county is working on acquiring PPE for medical workers. Until that issue is addressed, it’s hard to guarantee anything, he said.

Two new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Maui with the state reaching 504 total cases Monday. Only five new cases were reported statewide, after days of 20 to 30 new cases.

In addition to the two Maui cases, two were on Oahu and one on Hawaii island. Four of the cases were local residents, while the residency of one person was unknown.

Maui County’s total currently is 86 — with two on Molokai and none on Lanai. There are 352 cases on Oahu, 40 on Hawaii island and 21 on Kauai. Two people have been diagnosed out of state, and the residency of three cases is unknown.

As of Monday, 315 people have been released from isolation. There remain nine deaths, including three on Maui. That puts Maui County’s fatality rate at 3.49 percent of cases, which is higher than the state’s 1.8 percent and Oahu’s 1.7 percent.

Victorino said there could be a second cluster that the Department of Health is looking into. He did not want to elaborate because the cluster could not be confirmed at this time.

This report comes on the heels of Anderson mentioning Friday that there could be a church-related cluster on Maui that was being investigated by the Health Department.

Also at the news conference, Victorino said:

• More coronavirus testing will be done from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today on Molokai at Mitchell Pauole Community Center with efforts led by Dr. Scott Miscovich.

• West Maui drive-thru coronavirus testing will be held 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesday for first responders and health care workers only, then from 10 a.m. on for the general public, off Honoapiilani Highway near Launiupoko Beach Park. Details will be released today.

• West Maui food distribution will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday near Launiupoko Beach Park.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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