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Hospital down to 1 COVID-19 patient

Maui Memorial Medical Center closes another virus ward

Maui Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 unit registered nurse Leigh Ringstad dons protective gear with help from hospital aide Reynita Franco before going into a patient’s room Thursday. The unit’s personnel work in two-person teams while gearing up to make sure it is done correctly and completely. The ward was down to one COVID-19 patient Thursday. With that patient set to be transferred to a different ward, the unit was being prepared to revert back to its former duty. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Maui Memorial Medical Center marked a milestone in its monthslong fight against COVID-19 when it reduced virus-treating wards down to one — with a sole positive patient — on Thursday evening.

Also, the hospital said it considers the coronavirus cluster “contained.”

“We have not had anyone, patient or staff, come back from a positive contact in nearly three weeks,” hospital spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda told The Maui News on Thursday night.

The Maui Memorial cluster began in mid-March and has been linked by the hospital to 53 people (39 health care workers and 14 patients). Another seven cases are under investigation for a possible connection. State health officials said the outbreak was traced to a sole worker who showed up while sick.

At the height of the pandemic, Maui’s main hospital had four units to treat positive or suspected cases. The Haleakala South ward, which ended its run as a COVID-19 treatment unit Thursday, at its peak held 11 positive patients and eight suspected cases that turned out negative.

Haleakala South Nurse Manager Laurie Chock slips though a temporary barrier while entering a COVID-19 unit at the hospital Thursday.

Now, with one COVID-19 patient, who will be transferred to the last COVID-19 unit, health care workers are happy to have the ward’s 15 beds return to its original medical surgical functions.

With the closing of the unit as a COVID-19 treatment center, registered nurse Laurie Chock, Haleakala South nurse manager, praised staff members for their perseverance.

“Our team has been committed and 100 percent focused on providing the absolute best care to our patients while keeping themselves and those around them safe,” she said.

The hospital’s ICU isolation unit — the area most conducive for separating and safeguarding patients — will remain open for any suspected or confirmed positive individuals.

Also, the ward that closed to COVID-19 treatment Thursday could be reopened in a matter of hours if a second wave of the virus occurred, according to Dallarda.

Interim Environmental Services Director Nelida Stauffer cleans an empty room in the COVID-19 unit at Maui Memorial Medical Center on Thursday.

“While we hope that our community will stay safe and healthy, and we will continue to see a decline in cases, we are ready to mobilize and care for anyone in need again, if we see a surge on Maui,” Chock said.

Marian Horikawa-Barth, a director of nursing, said she’s proud that no patients were cross-contaminated even with the hospital treating large numbers of positive COVID-19 patients.

The ward had devices and procedures to limit cross-contamination. Air flow on the unit and throughout the hospital flows through air handlers with hepa filters.

Each room was outfitted with supplies of personal protective equipment, and the staff followed strict donning and doffing procedures, Horikawa-Barth said. Also, each room displayed protocol signs, and “we utilized spotters and/or mirrors for staff to avoid contamination.”

“Again, this technique contributed to the excellent outcomes with no cross-contamination,” she said.

COVID-19 crew members at Maui Memorial Medical Center pose for a group photo during their shift Thursday afternoon

Dallarda acknowledged the community’s work in flattening the curve for Maui County, including social distancing, wearing masks, practicing good hygiene and following “safer at home” guidelines, “which is evident by the decrease in positive cases.”

State health officials reported no new COVID-19 cases in Hawaii on Thursday, the second time in a week. Last Friday was the first time the state reported no new cases since tracking began Feb. 28.

Maui County’s last single case was reported Saturday. Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino has said that for weeks, Maui has averaged about one case per day.

While the state and the county have seen marked decreases in cases, health officials caution against a relaxed mentality when it comes to COVID-19 prevention. Many areas reopening too quickly have seen resurgences of the illness.

Still, Maui Memorial health workers are committed to the long haul.

“We know this pandemic will stay with us, and we are continuing to prepare for whatever comes next, but we are also grateful to our community and our mayor for their support during this challenging time for everyone,” Dallarda said.

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

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