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Hospital to update policies after 2 virus clusters

Queen’s Medical Center outbreak last week included 27 caregivers and 12 patients

HONOLULU (AP) — A Honolulu hospital plans to update its policies after being struck by coronavirus clusters in two areas of the facility.

The Queen’s Medical Center said Tuesday there was a COVID-19 outbreak in two clusters, after initially reporting Jan. 6 there was a single cluster, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The hospital said outbreaks happened in a cardiac unit on the third and sixth floors of Queen Emma Tower and that a second cluster was discovered on the fourth floor of Pauahi Tower.

The hospital reported an initial cluster of 27 caregivers and 12 patients. Since then, 11 additional patients have tested positive. People who tested positive are quarantined and receiving care, the hospital said.

Relatives of a 75-year-old patient who tested positive after discharge said they were not informed that she was treated on one of the affected floors.

The Queen’s Health Systems said changes are being made.

“In hindsight, we recognize that there was a gap in our processes that resulted in communication that was not at the level we hold ourselves accountable for and that our patients deserve,” the hospital system said in a statement.

Dr. Whitney Limm, Queen’s chief physicians officer, said patients with negative test results were not previously told they were in units with patients who tested positive for the virus. That policy is among “the gaps we are closing,” Limm said.

“If someone tests negative, the hospital staff now does follow-up checks after a patient is discharged,” Limm said.

The hospital said teams have completed broad surveillance of in-patients, increased contact tracing for all affected patients and that staff and reinforced safety protocols, including personal protective equipment usage and cleaning.

Dr. Julius Pham, chairman of the hospital’s COVID-19 committee, said the challenge of virus notification occurs during patient discharges.

“We frankly didn’t have the bandwidth to get to all our visitors,” Pham said. “Moving forward, we’re ramping up with family members and visitors. They deserve to be notified.”

The medical center has tracked discharged patients and will notify patients discharged from units with virus clusters, Pham said.

“We need to do it faster and better,” Pham said. “I don’t think our intent is to hide it from anybody.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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