Maui Memorial changes policy on masks after 15 healthcare workers test positive for COVID-19

Coronavirus

It’s been two weeks since the statewide stay-at-home order went into effect, and on Wednesday, there’s news of a cluster of COVID-19 cases on Maui, and the sixth COVID-19 death, an elderly man on Maui.

The department of health announced 25 new cases of the virus Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 435.

The health department also says over the past few weeks, 15 healthcare workers at Maui Memorial Medical Center tested positive for COVID-19. And it raised questions over the use of protective equipment such as masks. The hospital says it is changing its policy.

The state health department director told the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 that part of the problem at Maui Memorial Medical Center is that it is not following the same guidelines as other hospitals in using masks and other PPE, Personal Protective Equipment.

“PPE is essentially being rationed as it is and they’re having trouble getting masks and other protective equipment, probably cause they’re saving it for future use,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson.

He says the cases are not new and were discovered last month, but just recently all linked to the hospital.

Healthcare workers say the shortage of masks, especially N95 masks, is happening at all hospitals. And workers have been trying to use their own. But they say some hospitals won’t allow it because of liability.

“I get it, you can’t give what you don’t have. But the main issue we’ve been having is we’ve been pushing for them to allow the healthcare workers to use their own supply,” said Daniel Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association.. Maui Memorial nurse belong to another union.

Maui Memorial sent a statement saying it changed the policy last week and said, “New hospital protocol for personal protective equipment (PPE) allows Maui Health employees and providers to wear their own masks… Staff caring for non-COVID-19 patients and/or in clinical areas where masks are not required may choose to use their own personal masks.”

Maui’s mayor says the outbreak is troubling and wants to address the problem right away.

“We know this is difficult times and we’re taking immediate action to assist these workers. The county is redirecting all available PPE to the hospital and their staff,” said Mayor Mike Victorino.

The lieutenant governor also announced anyone who has had close contact with an infected patient will be tested. Even if they don’t have symptoms.

“Very important, that’s what was done in South Korea. They tested every contact of Covid positive individuals, focusing on close contacts, the safest thing to do,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

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