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A nurse union is speaking out after 124 healthcare workers went under self-quarantine due to potential exposure to a coronavirus patient admitted at UC Davis Medical Center last week.
National Nurses Union said in a release that the 33 nurses and 88 other healthcare professionals were exposed due to the hospital’s lack of preparedness and expressed concern over coronavirus preparedness at all U.S. hospitals.
“Despite University of California medical facilities being generally better prepared and equipped to treat challenging medical cases, the recent UC Davis Medical Center COVID-19 case highlights the vulnerability of the nation’s hospitals to this virus and the insufficiency of current Centers for Disease Control guidelines,” Nation Nurses Union said in a statement.
UC Davis Health didn’t immediately respond to comment for this story.
The female coronavirus patient, who is a resident of Solano County, was the first U.S. case without any travel history or known exposure to an infected person. She was transferred from NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento County on Feb. 19.
The patient arrived on a ventilator, and special protection orders were issued “because of an undiagnosed and suspected viral condition,” according to an email sent to employees Wednesday by the hospital’s interim CEO Brad Simmons and David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health.
The hospital asked the CDC to test for the coronavirus, but testing was delayed four days “since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19,” the email said. The CDC confirmed the test was positive on Feb. 26.
Despite the delay in testing, UC Davis Medical Center, which has treated other coronavirus patients, took infection prevention precautions since the patient arrived. Officials believe that there was “minimal chance” others at the facility were exposed to the virus, according to the email.
“Nevertheless, a small number of medical center employees have been asked to stay home and monitor their temperatures,” the email said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the procedure for coronavirus testing since the UC Davis Medical Center case.
“As soon as that case was recognized, we met and we revised our case definition for persons under investigation,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said at a press conference earlier in the week. “Today, that has been posted [on the CDC website] along with a new health advisory that the recommendation should be when a clinician or individual suspects coronavirus, then we should be able to get a test for coronavirus.”
The union said nurses employed by the UC medical centers have met with UC officials four times and communicated repeatedly since Jan. 28 about “the urgency to prepare for coronavirus, make information requests, and offer to work with them.”
“We know that we can be successful in getting all our hospitals prepared to control the spread of this virus,” said Bonnie Castillo, executive director of National Nurses United. “We are committed to working with hospitals and state and federal agencies to be ready. But nurses and health care workers need optimal staffing, equipment, and supplies to do so. This is not the time for hospital chains to cut corners or prioritize their profits. This is the time to go the extra mile and make sure health care workers, patients, and the public are protected at the highest standards.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Amy Graff is a digital editor with SFGATE. Email her: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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