A patient who was initially admitted to the Guam Memorial Hospital for an illness not related to Covid-19 later tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and the late detection was feared to have exposed unsuspecting hospital employees to the virus.
The GMH patient was among the 12 cases of Covid-19 on Guam’s current list, according to Press Secretary Krystal Paco.
“The incident occurred on the third floor, Medical-Surgical Inpatient Adult Unit wherein the patient was placed in a private room with a closed door,” the hospital’s administrator, CEO Lilian Perez-Posadas, stated in a memo circulated last Thursday night following the patient’s test. “As medical professionals, our actions are primarily dependent and premised on information patients report.”
Perez-Posadas said the individual was determined to have a coronavirus infection only when a radiological procedure was completed a few days later.
GMH did not release additional information as to when the patient, a man in his 50s, was admitted and for what illness he or she was initially checked up.
“As soon as we received the information, all appropriate isolation measures were instituted,” Perez-Posadas said. “Although we would have preferred to have the patient immediately placed in isolation, which is the standard protocol for patients suspected of Covid-19 infection, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines state that if an isolation room is not available, a known COVID-19 patient can be placed in a private room with a closed door.”
After the patient has been placed in isolation immediately, Perez-Posadas said, the wing and private room where the patient was admitted has been sanitized as is the standard process for infection control.
“While we realize this incident has caused tremendous anxiety and concerns, especially among those of you who were in direct contact with the patient, I ask everyone to please remain calm,” the GMH administrator said in the memo. “As a registered nurse with over 30 years of experience, I understand your apprehensions and distress.”
GMH employees who may have been exposed to the patient have been instructed to contact the Employee Health Nurse and the Infection Control Nurse for processing.
“We have and will continue to take the necessary actions as guided by the Department of Public Health and Social Service the CDC and all stakeholders. In the meantime, please be aware of your health,” Perez-Posadas said. “No matter your status, stay home if you feel unwell, contact your family physician or our Employee Health Physician if you are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, keep your hands clean, and stay informed of new developments.”
(Clarification. An earlier version of this story stated that the number of Guam's cases was 13. A government spokesperson clarified that the GMH patient is among the 12 listed Thursday night)