Traveling Physician at Ka‘ū Hospital Tests Positive for COVID-19
After months without incident, Big Island healthcare facilities have reported multiple cases of COVID-19 among medical staff over the last week.
Lt. Governor Josh Green confirmed Tuesday to Big Island Now that a traveling doctor hired at Ka‘ū Hospital and Rural Health Clinic tested positive for the coronavirus last week. A town hall featuring Green and Mayor Harry Kim was held in Pahala Monday night to assuage the fears of the community there.
“The lesson here is we want all healthcare providers to do a pre-test before seeing patients,” Green said. “There just can be no compromise there. We have to make sure everyone gets cleared before they see patients.”
There was no system-wide policy among healthcare providers on the Big Island or throughout the state mandating traveling physicians and other essential healthcare professionals be tested for COVID-19 before beginning work. Such personnel has been allowed to enter the state and start treating patients immediately as long as they travel only between their respective lodgings and healthcare facilities.
The physician who tested positive for coronavirus saw patients at Ka‘ū Hospital for at least one or two days before being diagnosed. Green said all close contacts were immediately tested. No related cases had been reported as of Tuesday. The Lieutenant Governor said that is owed to the fact that the doctor in question, as well as all the patients, wore masks for the duration of every interaction.
The hospital and the physician, who is currently in quarantine, have “decided to go their separate ways” after the scare created by the positive test, Green added.
Kona Community Hospital Update
A medical professional at Kona Community Hospital was also diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday, which KCH made public in a press release Monday.
While the state Department of Health hasn’t provided any more information on the case or close contacts, Green said Tuesday the expectation is more positive test results will follow.
“I do think that they are worried that there was at least one health professional, if not more, who were positive,” he said.
KCH has undertaken a “very aggressive, full-facility testing” initiative that it will conduct through Thursday, Green continued. This will include widespread testing of medical personnel at KCH, as well as any patients who may have been exposed.
“A lot of extra testing will be available,” Green said.
Approximately 20% of all cases in the world have been health professionals, according to Green. He said that Big Island medical facilities having largely avoided these kinds of issues until now is a testament to people being careful, namely wearing face masks at all times.
More incidents like those at Ka‘ū Hospital and Kona Community Hospital are possible, as COVID-19 cases are trending upwards in Hawai‘i over the last month. The higher risk will require more contact tracing capability than is currently in place, Green said.