In last 2 weeks 6 patients admitted in JDWNRH tested positive later

In the last two months, 150 health staff (doctors, resident, nurses, support staff) tested positive from the Emergency Department, Lab, Medical Extension, Medical Ward, Maternity Ward, COVID-19 isolation ward and the Operation Theatre in Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH). And last week within 24 hours, three health staff tested positive while they were at their homes. They have been asked to home quarantine.

Officiating Medical Superintendent Dr Pem Chuki said JDWNRH gets referral cases from high-risk areas on a daily basis. The hospital got some cases where patients tested positive after being admitted in the medical ward, especially in the maternity ward.

The main challenge is that earlier the referred patients from the high-risk areas were kept in an observation ward in JDWNRH for a week, and after that the patients are admitted in the medical ward upon testing negative, but now all the patients are tested and within a day they are admitted in the medical ward.

So the hospital is admitting all the patients within a day and finding them COVID-19 positive after three to four days. Sometimes, the attendant is positive and sometimes the patient, said Dr Pem Chuki.

Whenever patients turn positive, they are transferred to Taba COVID-19 hospital. In the last two weeks, six patients who turned COVID-19 positive are admitted to Taba hospital from JDWNRH. These 6 patients had been admitted in the hospital already.

Since patients are admitted within a day the one time COVID-19 testing is not going to guarantee that the patient is COVID-19 positive or negative because of the incubation period. So any patients testing positive are managed in the COVID-19 isolation ward in JDWNRH, said Dr Pem Chuki.

Also, the hospital has been getting requests for the change of attendant and many times, the attendants are COVID-19 positive rather than the patient.

Dr Pem Chuki explained that the 150 health staff testing positive was in a staggered manner. In a period of two months, a total of 150 staff tested positive. She said with the health staff testing COVID-19 positive, it cannot be said exactly from where they got infected, but the above mentioned challenges could be one of the reasons and Thimphu is also having a massive COVID-19 outbreak in the community.

Dr Pem Chuki said since there is a shortage of health staff, even if they test positive they are still doing duty in the COVID-19 isolation ward or in Taba hospital.

The health staff are to be tested only if they have COVID symptoms otherwise testing is not required. And any symptomatic health staff turning positive will be asked to do home isolation and if they wish to work, then they are sent to the Taba Hospital.

JDWNRH has shortage of health staff since the hospital has mobilized health staff to other dzongkhags and if the hospital requires then they will reach out to other hospital in other dzongkhags. The hospital might have to work extra hours and their 12 hours’ duty might go up to 18 hours’ duty.

From the staff’s perspective, the hospital is monitoring the PPE compliance all the time, mainly the N-95 face mask as it is the only weapon to protect the patients and the health staff. So PPE protocols are being audited especially in high-risk departments like in the ICU and Operation Theater where the health staff have to be in full PPE.

JDWNRH has opened up all the health services. Also, the hospital will continue the policy of one attendant for one patient because the risk is there.

Meanwhile, Dr Pem Chuki said if someone requires medical attention they should not delay themselves. COVID-19 per se might not kill but the primary disease will.

She said they should not worry with the current variant Omicron which is not so virulent and patients should come and avail medical services.

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