Covid 19 Omicron variant: Outbreak at Starship childrens hospital, 12 cases confirmed

There has been an outbreak of Covid-19 at Starship children’s hospital, with 12 positive cases confirmed so far.

The hospital told the Herald today that six staff and six patients had tested positive. The outbreak likely stemmed from a positive case in the general paediatrics ward last week.

Auckland DHB director of provider services Dr Mike Shepherd said staff immediately activated plans to prevent the further spread of the virus within the hospital and was rapidly testing staff and patients on the ward.

“As we’re now seeing very high numbers of Covid-19 cases in the community, it’s not unexpected for some of our workforce to contract Covid-19 and to see high numbers of people with Covid-19 in our hospitals,” he said.

There were a record 1160 Covid-19 detected in the community on Wednesday as the virus continues to spread rapidly around Auckland.

The father of a 15 year-old patient said his daughter was in Ward 25, a general paediatrics ward, last week. She was in a high dependency unit, with 24-hour monitoring.

“I got a call at 10.30pm on Thursday night and they said your daughter has had an inconclusive rapid antigen test,” said Paul, who asked for his surname not be used because he did not want to identify his daughter.

“They said the nurse that looked after her has tested positive.”

A subsequent PCR test came back positive on Friday morning.

Paul’s daughter was then discharged from the hospital – at least a week ahead of her planned discharge date. Paul said he was “flabbergasted” at this decision, because his daughter required around-the-clock care.

He has since caught the virus from his daughter, and was in isolation. He believed he caught it while at his daughter’s bedside in hospital.

Shepherd said the DHB could not comment on the specifics of individual patient care “for ethical and privacy reasons”.

He said that if a patient tested positive for Covid-19 at Starship, the clinical team assessed the appropriate next steps based on the patient’s needs.

“In some cases, this may mean remaining in hospital for ongoing care, but in other instances the clinical recommendation may be to isolate at home, with the support of whānau and community services if appropriate, before continuing with other treatment.”

Shepherd said that with the increased transmission of Omicron, people were often infectious before they displayed symptoms.

“We’re very grateful to our staff who are vigilant at looking out for any signs of Covid-19 symptoms and getting tested quickly, and to those who regularly take part in surveillance testing. This helps us to identify Covid-19 cases early and quickly, and reduce the risk of transmission.”

Paul claimed that the nurse was symptomatic while he was looking after his daughter.

The hospital did not respond directly to the claim but did say it told staff to be mindful of Covid symptoms.

Starship had robust plans in place for positive Covid-19 cases within the hospital, Shepherd said. All staff were vaccinated, and there were measures in place to prevent the virus spreading between wards or parts of the hospital.

“This includes use of appropriate PPE, patient and visitor screening, dedicated pathways for patients with Covid-19 and limited numbers of visitors on-site. All visitors and patients on our sites are required to wear medical masks to help keep everybody safe.”

All onsite surveillance testing at Auckland DHB is now being done using Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs), to keep PCR testing free for tests that must be done in the laboratory.

Hospital bosses have told staff that it is recommended that they get a surveillance RAT test every third day they are at work, the Herald understands. RAT tests will be available to staff to take home too, if needed.

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