Positive staff tests close areas of Waitakere Hospital

Waitakere Hospital is closing areas after three staff tested positive for Covid-19, possibly linked to patients from a Te Atatu rest home cluster. Melanie Reid reports.

Waitakere Hospital has closed down parts of the facility after three staff working across multiple departments tested positive for the virus.

Newsroom asked yesterday what procedures had been put in place since one of the nurses, a flexi-nurse deployed across different hospital departments, was confirmed with Covid-19 on April 27 and today the hospital introduced new measures to close off affected areas to admissions.

Nurses have expressed concern on social media that the hospital seemed to have allowed flexi-nurses to be in contact with Covid-19 patients and then work with patients who were not  infected with the virus.

In a Facebook post four days ago a nurse revealed her flexi-nurse colleagues were being assigned to different departments every day and said she was alarmed they could be spreading Covid-19 while asymptomatic.

Newsroom understands the hospital’s management is expected to start rigorous testing after the number of staff affected hit three, with another nurse believed positive in the past day.

Twenty one elderly residents from CHT St Margaret's Hospital and Rest Home in Te Atatu were admitted to either Waitakere or North Shore Hospitals suffering from Covid-19. Three have since died and it is understood seven are still being treated.

The three deaths were of a woman in her 90s and two women in their 70s. A total of 34 cases had arisen in the St Margaret's cluster by Thursday, according to the Ministry of Health, with 13 having recovered.

The 21 residents from the facility were taken to the hospitals after the outbreak reduced St Margaret's staffing roster.

Ambulances took six to Waitakere on Friday April 17 and a further 15 to hospital the following day. Others transferred later.

The Waitakere Hospital main entrance.  Photo: Melanie Reid

"As with some other clusters around the country, this one includes people from both within CHT St Margaret's and also in the community, all linked by transmission," CHT Healthcare Trust ceo Max Robins said in a statement to Checkpoint at the time.

A number of St Margaret's staff members had been stood down and put into precautionary self isolation due to close contact with confirmed Covid-19 cases.

"This has impacted the facility's ability to maintain a full staffing roster," the DHB said.

Security on the main door to Waitakere Hospital. Photo: Melanie Reid

 Waitematā DHB Deputy CEO Dr Andrew Brant issued a press statement as this Newsroom story was published, saying:
“It is unclear at this stage whether contact with those patients was the source of the staff contracting Covid-19 or whether any of the cases are linked. Full personal protective equipment was made available and worn by staff at all times in this area. 
“The DHB has an auditing programme in place on the appropriate use of PPE for all Covid patients. An urgent review is in progress to understand how and where the infection may have occurred. 
“Contact-tracing of staff and patients is underway to identify close and casual contacts for follow-up. A number of staff are being stood-down from work as a precaution and are going into self-isolation pending test results.” 

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