5 Oahu nurses fly to Maui’s largest hospital after ‘serious outbreak’

3 employees, a patient at Maui Memorial test positive for COVID-19 as cluster grows

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are now 19 employees at Maui Memorial Medical Center who are sick with coronavirus according to the hospital and the Department of Health calls it a "serious outbreak."

Meanwhile, five Oahu nurses quickly packed up and flew to Kahului this morning answering a critical need for help in the hospital's cancer ward.

Maui Memorial says three additional employees and one patient were confirmed as having COVID-19, but that they are in good condition and in isolation.

The state health department director says of particular concern is a Maui Memorial employee who was sick and working for an extended period of time.

State and hospital officials say an elderly male patient in the chronic care unit died and the hospital said there’s a positive patient in that same unit. The health director says two wards are affected by the outbreak are chronic care and pediatric telemetry, but according to a nurses union executive, the oncology or cancer unit was shut down for two days on Wednesday and Thursday due to the outbreak.

The health director says the outbreak was partly caused by travel related cases and an employee who was working for an extended period while sick.

"There was at least one employee at Maui Memorial who is sick at work for an extended period of time who was later found positive for COVID-19. It's critically important that workers not be allowed to work on the wards or anywhere else if you're sick," said Bruce Anderson, Director, Hawaii State Department of Health.

"You should stay home and your employer should insist that people stay home. That's where most of the problems here have occurred," he added.

On Friday morning, five oncology nurses from Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center flew from Honolulu to Kahului to start helping patients in the cancer unit at Maui Memorial and they expect to be there for two weeks.

"I truly do think that these are our heroes right now. There was a call, they saw the bat signal and they were on their way," said Charmaine Morales, UNAC/UHCP Executive Vice President, the nurses union that represents nurses at Maui Memorial.

“It was overwhelming. I think many of us on the phone where overwhelmed with emotion and some were on the verge of crying,” she added.

Morales calls these five Oahu nurses “selfless” despite concerns of being exposed despite through travel or working at the hospital. She says they’ve been assured by the hospital that they’ll have adequate protective equipment.

Meanwhile, the health director says two pallets of equipment were shipped to Maui Memorial and he says the hospital has done a “great job” in the last couple weeks in improving infection control procedures.

The hospital says it has always followed CDC guidelines and has tested 126 patients, caregivers and physicians.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.