Dr Ashley Bloomfield has admitted the man who tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday after sharing a room with three others on a surgical ward at Middlemore Hospital, should have been isolated sooner.
At Monday's 4pm press conference, Bloomfield said the case presented to Middlemore’s Emergency Department on Saturday but did not show symptoms of Covid.
The man presented with abdominal pain and was asked appropriate screening questions relating to Covid symptoms which he reportedly did not display.
He was then admitted to the appropriate ward given his symptoms, but the following morning an attending clinician considered the man a candidate for a Covid test.
A test was done but Bloomfield says it should have “ideally should have been isolated from others on the ward”.
Bloomfield said Middlemore will be “going back to have a look at and reviewing why that didn’t happen".
He said as soon as the positive test result was recorded, the man was isolated and the appropriate staff and others who might have been exposed were identified and appropriate measures put in place.
Bloomfield says there has not been a link established to a location of interest or a known case.
“The team has been interviewing every member of the household,” he said, adding there are 10 people in the positive case's household and contact tracers may need to go back "quite a way".
Counties Manukau Health responds
Counties Manukau District Health Board has responded to questions raised over the hospital's management of the positive Covid case.
"A patient, who later tested positive for Covid-19, presented to Middlemore Hospital at 5pm on Saturday evening, 4 September, with atypical Covid-19 symptoms," a spokesperson for Counties Manukau Health said.
"After routine Covid-exposure questioning, which did not identify the patient as at risk for Covid-19, the patient was assessed in the Emergency Department (ED) and moved to an Adult Short Stay ward at 8.30pm, where treatment included having a CT scan.
"Early Sunday morning, at 7am, the patient was moved to a surgical ward where concerns about their condition resulted in them being tested for Covid-19."
The DHB spokesperson said the patient tested positive at 3pm Sunday and was immediately moved to the respiratory ward dedicated to Covid patients.
"As is usual practice for a confirmed positive Covid-19 patient, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) are undertaking a case investigation to identify and isolate close contacts."
Patients still unclear on testing plans
The three men left in the room in the Middlemore Hospital surgical ward are still unclear on when they will be tested for Covid-19.
They are aged 30, 38 and 91. The 30-year-old, who only wants to be identified by his first name, Jamie, told 1 NEWS none of the men have been tested or have been told when they will get a test.
"We are just in our own little bubble but don’t really know anything. They are talking about moving us one at a time, going to separate rooms, but they’ve been talking about that all day," he says.
“They had all last night to plan, we are just all worried you know."
Jamie says cleaners came into the room late last night.
"They had some cleaning people come in and take down the curtains and did quite a bit of cleaning even though quite a bit of rubbish is still sitting in the corner of the room, like our dishes, they don’t seem to know what to do with it.
"They’re not really cleaning up after us with the rubbish. It’s a lot messier. We’ve been ringing them to come, it takes about an hour for them to come in. My friend knocked his drip and his arm was bleeding but they didn’t come for ages.
"We have no choice but to wait.
"We have all been given phones. We can’t ring out but they ring us," Jamie says.
ACT leader expresses concern over potential spread of virus
ACT leader David Seymour expressed concerns over the exposure and possible spread of the virus after the incident at Middlemore Hospital on Sunday.
Seymour is a family friend of the son of the 91-year-old patient who was caught up in the incident.
“Middlemore need to be up front about triaging and subsequently isolation of the person,” Seymour said.
He added that the elderly man is “being well-cared for now, given what’s happened but the reality is that they now face isolation while already facing serious illness which is what put them in hospital in the first place.
“So that is very, very sad.”
He said Kiwis “meticulously” follow the code of rules to beat Covid, so it will be “frustrating” people that in the one place it would be expected to be working, “they were so careless”.
Counties Manukau Health fulll statement:
A patient, who later tested positive for Covid-19, presented to Middlemore Hospital at 5pm on Saturday evening, 4 September, with atypical Covid-19 symptoms.
After routine Covid-exposure questioning, which did not identify the patient as at risk for Covid-19, the patient was assessed in the Emergency Department (ED) and moved to an Adult Short Stay ward at 8.30pm, where treatment included having a CT scan.
Early Sunday morning, at 7am, the patient was moved to a surgical ward where concerns about their condition resulted in them being tested for Covid-19.
The patient tested positive at 3pm and was immediately moved to the respiratory ward dedicated to Covid patients.
As is usual practice for a confirmed positive Covid-19 patient, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) are undertaking a case investigation to identify and isolate close contacts.
Middlemore Hospital’s Infection, Prevention and Control, and Occupational Health staff, are working together with ARPHS to assess the risk of this exposure.
All patients and staff working in the two affected wards between 6.30am and 4.30pm on Sunday 5 September are currently being classed as close contacts until we have done further investigations.
As a consequence, the wards have been closed to any new admissions and patients are being cared for as Covid-exposed by staff using appropriate PPE. As patients are discharged from hospital, Public Health will continue to oversee them to manage any possible ongoing risks and testing.
Although staff routinely wear surgical masks and full PPE where required, all staff in the wards have currently been stood down and will work with Occupational Health and ARPHS regarding risk and actions.
All ED staff are routinely required to wear N95 masks and goggles and, as such, are regarded as casual contacts. Occupational Health is working with these staff and no one has been stood down.
Patients who may have been exposed while in ED are being moved into Covid exposed isolation as a precaution. Any other patients who may have left ED during this time will be contacted by Public Health.
We acknowledge the concern of our patients who may have been exposed to Covid-19, particularly those who were in a shared room, and recognise this may be an anxious time for them and their whānau.
We will be reviewing our practices to identify if there were any undue delays in the diagnosis of Covid-19 of this patient and to check appropriate procedures and processes were followed.
Deep or additional cleaning has been undertaken where necessary.
Middlemore Hospital Emergency Department remains open for those who need emergency care. In an emergency, the public should follow the normal procedures; dial 111 or visit your nearest emergency department.