EXCLUSIVE: Workers complain of scabies infections at Kahi Mohala

EXCLUSIVE: Workers complain of scabies infections at Kahi Mohala

EWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Several workers claim that they've been infected with scabies at a psychiatric hospital in Ewa.

Hawaii News Now spoke with one worker who said he was bitten at Kahi Mohala, a private 88-bed facility that treats adolescents.

"It was way worse in intensity, the itching and the torment, I can't even explain," said the worker, who asked for anonymity because he feared retribution for speaking out.

The worker said his skin was full of scabies mites, which he tried to remove with a piece of tape. The highly contagious infection then spread to his roommate and others in the house, who developed rashes when the mites laid eggs.

The worker said he went to the hospital emergency room four times. Doctors at Queen's Medical Center West Oahu finally diagnosed him with scabies, and he got the proper treatment.

The Hawaii Teamsters Union, which represents workers at Kahi Mohala, said there are more workers and even some patients who are infected.

"Actually we heard from probably close to about a dozen members," said union president Ron Kozuma. "They told us they've gotten bites. We've gotten a couple that's confirmed scabies."

Kozuma aid the union has written Kahi Mohala over the past few weeks and met with hospital administrators Tuesday. But he's not satisfied with the response.

"They're telling the employees that it's mosquito bites, its mites. They're not taking it as seriously as they should," he said.

The hospital acknowledged there was a situation. "Kahi Mohala is working with the Hawaii State Department of Health of investigate skin rashes at our campus," said Christina Enoka, the hospital's risk management director. "We are conducting tests with help from the Department of Health and two commercial pest companies to determine the cause."

Enoki's statement also said one of the hospital's units was closed Wednesday for further testing, deep cleaning and fumigation.

"They say it's not an outbreak," said Kozuma. "But once you've got more than two confirmations of scabies, they should treat it as an outbreak."

Kahi Mohala said it should share its findings and would continue to protect its patients and staff, according to Enoka.

Follow Ben Gutierrez:   

Copyright 2014 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.