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Coronavirus cluster prompts stricter safety protocols at Maui Memorial

Officials say 75 people were tested at a drive-thru test site on Maui on Monday.
Officials say 75 people were tested at a drive-thru test site on Maui on Monday.(Maui County)
Published: Apr. 10, 2020 at 10:23 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui Memorial Medical Center is now screening and requiring masks for everyone who enters the building.

That’s after a cluster of 15 coronavirus cases, which is blamed partly on a lack of protective equipment.

The hospital and union that represents Maui Memorial nurses say there’s no shortage of equipment, but there are conflicts.

CEO of Maui Health Mike Rembis says the first of 15 positive employees were identified over a month ago, and he insists the hospital told the Department of Health about them immediately.

Now it’s in the process of testing more than 70 people who had contacts with those infected. Those 15 infected employees are in isolation.

On Wednesday, the state said Maui Memorial wasn't adhering to infection control principals and wasn't providing staff with enough protective equipment.

Rembis says the biggest problem is confusion over changing federal guidelines and it’s working with the Department of Health.

"To clarify this, I actually had a phone conversation with the department today (Thursday). They identified every recommendation that they believe we need to implement and I'm happy to say every single one has been implemented," said Rembis.

"The protection of our employees, our nurses, all of our caregivers is the number one priority so I'm working with the union to make sure we are in agreement," he added.

An ICU nurse at Maui Memorial says he initially was not allowed to wear an N95 mask he bought online and barred from entering the building, but his union helped resolve the situation.

Now providers can wear a N95 mask from home underneath the hospital issued mask.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Nurses Association, which does not represent Maui Memorial nurses says there are complaints from nurses at hospitals statewide over unsafe conditions, lack of equipment and hospitals not allowing nurses to bring in their own personal protective equipment.

“I know they’re not bad people in management. They’re just too far removed and they’re just heartless,” said Dan Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association.

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