Island Hospital’s (IH) leadership team was notified of a member of their nursing staff who tested positive for COVID-19 at the close of business on Friday, September 25. The staff member was treated in the Emergency Department and sent home to recover and isolate. Senior leaders immediately contacted Skagit County Public Health who worked closely with IH’s Quality and Infection Prevention team to identify patients and staff who were in contact with the affected individual. IH, along with Public Health, have been closely following Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Health (DOH) guidelines for contact tracing, testing, and exposure. As of today, one patient has tested positive from this exposure; 17 employees and 14 patients/visitors were tested. Skagit County Public Health has not recommended a reduction or halt in services.
“Based on our investigation there is currently no indication that services should be changed,” said Dr. Howard Leibrand, MD, Health Officer at Skagit County Public Health.
“Safety is our top priority at Island Hospital. This positive case has reminded us that we are still very much in the fight against COVID-19. It has also given us pause to reflect on the health and safety of our employees so that we can continue providing care for our community. We are evaluating all of our policies and procedures related to COVID-19 to ensure safety is paramount,” said Charles Hall, IH CEO.
As hospitals and employers across the country grapple with employee health and safety, IH has documented their process for handling COVID-19 concerns and exposures.
“Our hope is that by sharing our internal process, we may assist other local and regional employers in battling this pandemic. Unfortunately this is not our first COVID case and it most likely will not be our last. This virus will be with us for the foreseeable future, so we must find a way to deal with it as we fight it,” said Hall.
Every person entering Island Hospital or IH clinics must be screened for symptoms and given a temperature check. Additionally a face mask is required for all patients, staff, and visitors. If a staff member has a fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit or exhibits symptoms, they are directed to Employee Health.
Island Hospital’s internal COVID-19 exposure and testing processes is as follows:
- After an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and IH Employee Health is notified, they will contact the employee and ask them about their symptoms and who they remember being in close contact with for the two days before their symptoms started until the day they tested positive. (As defined by Washington State DOH and the CDC, “close contact” means you have been within six feet of someone with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more.)
- Department Discussion: Senior Leadership, the Department Manager and Employee Health will meet with staff in the department to review the situation, hear concerns and identify next steps.
- Investigation: Each employee (and patient) who was in close contact with the positive employee is called by IH Employee Health and/or Public Health to notify them of their potential exposure and review symptoms with them.
- Referrals for COVID-19 testing will be made by Employee Health on an individual basis after discussion with the employee and Public Health. After receiving the referral, the Respiratory Clinic will call the employee (or patient) to schedule the appointment.
- Employees with symptoms of COVID-19 will be asked to stay home for at least 1 day after a fever is gone (without using medications) AND improvement of respiratory symptoms AND at least 10 days have passed since the symptoms first appeared.
- Employees with a negative COVID-19 test will be advised to stay home until 24 hours after a fever resolves and symptoms improve.
“The nature of healthcare often times requires close contact. Our best defense in keeping everyone safe is wearing proper PPE; following hand washing guidelines; entering through a screening station before shifts; limiting travel; and staying home when we feel sick,” said Hall.
As of September 30, 2020, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Skagit County totaled 1,111 with 98 hospitalizations and 22 deaths. Of those, 50–59 have been from Anacortes (as of September 28, 2020). (www.skagitcounty.net)