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I-TEAM: Nurse claims delay in COVID-19 testing for patient may have exposed Doctors Hospital employees

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: May. 28, 2020 at 5:56 PM EDT
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Thursday, May 28, 2020

News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- New claims and concerns are rising after the coronavirus outbreak at Doctors Hospital with nine employees testing positive.

A nurse fears things are worse then the hospital is letting on.

Things are much worse, according to this nurse, especially now that word has gotten out. We took those concerns to the hospital administration who did answer some new questions.

A source sent an email to us that went to Doctors Hospital staff on Wednesday, directly referencing "media and social media coverage." It stated how the hospital is "at the beginning stages of rebuilding our community's trust that Doctors Hospital is a safe place to seek care."

But the nurse we spoke to says she doesn't feel safe.

"Talking to them didn't work. Asking them questions didn't work. How are we going to get these people to listen to us how are we going to get answers? It's what we deserve, and its what the community deserves," the nurse said.

She asked we disguise her voice and not use her name out of fear of losing her job. But she says she also fears the statement to staff isn't entirely accurate, starting with how the outbreak started.

The hospital described an ER patient "with no signs or symptoms of COVID-19" but "while being treated, the patient began to show symptoms."

"The patient had shortness of breath since they arrived, and the nurses were on the floor -- on the burn floor -- were trying to get the patient tested, and it took multiple tries with the doctor before they agreed," the nurse said.

She worries that delay wasted time and exposed a lot of people to the virus.

"And when they did agree, the patient was transferred to another floor and died 12 hours later," the nurse said.

She also believes the staff members weren't the only ones infected.

"So all the patients got tested. Two more patients came up positive, and they got switched to another floor," the nurse said.

We asked Doctors Hospital about this. In a statement today, a spokesman says, "As of this moment, nobody that interacted with the patient in the ER has tested positive for COVID-19."

When it comes to how nine staff members became infected, the hospital said, "There is no way to know if they acquired the virus at work or in the community."

"Not every nurse or tech or staff member or secretary on that floor went to the same, the same gym or the same, ah, grocery store," the nurse said. "But they did all go to the same hospital on the same floor and work the same shift. It's the only logical conclusion they got it there."

Today, Doctors Hospital also said, "To be safe, we tested every person on our 3 east unit, even if they didn’t have contact with the patient." Adding, "No employee is allowed to work if they show symptoms of COVID-19."

But the nurse believes some employees have been at work before knowing for sure they were safe.

"As of Sunday, there were still nurses working who had gotten tested, who didn't have the results," she said.

Meanwhile, comments on Facebook continue to be in support of the hospital -- "Our leaders have done a great job at communicating with us during COVID." And some even saying "Look at the media -- trying their best to instill fear in the community."

We are saying no fear, just trying to get all sides as we all try to navigate this new normal.

Full statement from Doctors Hospital:

Our source disagreed with the following: a patient did present to our ER with no signs or symptoms of COVID-19.

Our source claims the following: The patient had shortness of breath since they arrived, and the nurses were on the floor -- on the burn floor -- were trying to get the patient tested, and it took multiple tries with the doctor before they agreed. And when they did agree, the patient was transferred to another floor and died 12 hours later.

Is this accurate?

"Everything we said in the statement we provided to you yesterday is true. As of this moment, nobody that interacted with the patient in the ER has tested positive for COVID-19."

Our source also addressed the following: There is no way to know if they acquired the virus at work or in the community.

Not every nurse or tech or staff member or secretary on that floor went to the same, the same gym or the same, ah, grocery store. But they did all go to the same hospital on the same floor and work the same shift. It's the only logical conclusion they got it there."

"We appreciate and value the opinions of all of our employees, especially those that are on the front lines of patient care.

Our source also claims staff members with known exposure to the positive patient and staff members are still working -- until they get a positive test result.

As of Sunday, there were still nurses working who had gotten tested, who didn't have the results."

"To be safe, we tested every person on our 3 East Unit, even if they didn’t have contact with the patient. We are following all CDC guidelines on returning to work after being tested for COVID-19. No employee is allowed to work if they show symptoms of COVID-19."
Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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