Hospitals Struggle to Contain Covid-19 Spread Inside Their Walls


As the coronavirus continues its spread throughout the country, some hospitals are also struggling to contain the spread inside its walls. Well. It's only a small number of overall cases US medical centers have reported over five thousand cases of patients, catching coronavirus after being admitted there for other conditions, and that number does not include the case of medical staff that have caught the virus at work. Melanie Evans Hospital reporter at the Wall Street. Journal joins us for more on how hospitals try to protect both staff and patients from infection. Thanks for joining US Melanie. Thanks for having me wanted to talk about an interesting facet of this whole corona virus thing and how it plays out in hospitals. Obviously, people are going to hospitals to get the treatment they need. Sometimes they're spending long stays there and the hospital staff. Obviously, has to work with. With them. They have to work with regular patients as well. It can be a very difficult thing and right now. We're seeing that US. Medical centers have reported over five thousand cases of patients that caught cove in nineteen after being admitted to the hospital for other conditions I think that's that was just patients, but there's also a lot of a hospital staffers that are also catching it there from work as well. Melanie a little bit more about, please. Hospitals even outside of a pandemic. Go to some pretty extraordinary lengths to prevent infections from spreading inside the hospital itself. So you've got doctors nurses taking care of patients. Some of them have a contagious disease. You can think of measles you could think of to burke yellow says and so hospitals have all of these various strategies for trying to ensure that contagious patients don't infect hospital workers, and that the disease whatever it may be doesn't spread, and you don't get a outbreak. Hospitals began to try to adapt the way they operate in order to prevent the virus from spreading internally. What we found was that there was a pretty inconsistent approach across hospitals as the pandemic hit the United States, and so as you as you noted, hospitals are starting to report what they consider to be hospital onset cases so patients who've been exposed and contracted or respected to have contracted covid nineteen while inside of the hospital. There isn't good data for exposure of hospital staff. and. It's interesting I mean one of the things that kind of hinders. This is the reporting structure that they use to be certain that an infection occurred in a hospital. You know the federal government doesn't ask them to report everything. It's Somebody's gotta be there for at least two weeks and catch the virus there before the reported has an infection. You got there at the hospital, so there's a possibility of a bunch of other people that could have gotten it before that to expand their one of the hospitals that you. You focused on for your piece was the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago as you were mentioning? Hospitals are trying to prevent the spread of this thing as much as they could, but even still it got through, and by mid June more than two hundred sixty nurses, clerical staff custodians texts had contracted the virus there four staff members died, so even still it's it's just tough to contain all this. The Standard, the threshold for reporting a case of a patient contracting covid nineteen inside the hospital is pretty high. It's also voluntary. So for those reasons, the infectious disease experts we talked to said the number is likely higher, so we've got about five thousand cases since May fourteen that excludes anything that occurred prior to that since May. Fourteenth there have been roughly. Five thousand cases reported voluntarily by hospitals that met as very high threshold, and to your point we looked at one specific hospital that struggled with these protocols for keeping patients and staff separate, and when we interviewed staff and the head of infection control. What we were told was. It is likely that the virus spread internally that they were investigating, but they declined to share with us. The results of their investigation, citing privacy for employees have died Joyce Hacker Bus Leblanc. She's fifty three year old nurse, Juan Martinez and. Room technician who worked on the third floor, Maria Lopez a nurse, who on the third, floor operating unit. And then FLA botanist Edward Starling. He's sixty years old and he died on June seventeenth. You know speaking to what you're saying about. Some of these protocols they isolate infected patients. The buildings are engineered to help reduce the viral spread. A lot of people talk about these negative pressure rooms, which kind of sucked the air out so the virus staying there, but then there's other research that shows that there's been a particles of the virus kind of hallways outside of those rooms, so it's a very difficult thing to. To contain and be clear these numbers that we're talking about these over five thousand cases, these are a very small fraction of the overall number of cases, but you know it's hard to for a lot of people to feel comfortable there. If certain things like these are happening you know, it just complicates everything. contact tracing is difficult in the hospitals especially at the University of Illinois Hospital that we're talking about at one point, there were so many people are getting sick and was the contact tracing their. They continue to work to boost their infection control practices. As we reported this story, we talked to hospitals across the United States over several weeks and the course of that reporting. hustles described the ways enrich their protocols, and their efforts were changing so early in the pandemic testing was limited. There was no requirement that everybody wear a mask. Now taking is more widespread and hospitals have policies that require universal masking patients and staff are being asked to wear masts to help slow the spread of the virus hospitals in the course of the pandemic raced to reengineer their ventilation systems and add negative pressure rooms, so yes, it is sort of involving response by US hospitals in order to try to contain any possible outbreaks. Hopefully as we continue to get through this, the hospitals can learn to manage it as best they

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