Covid-19 Victoria: Breach by positive nurse working across multiple hospitals

Victoria’s top health officials are ‘exceptionally concerned and disappointed’ after revealing an alarming breach by a nurse who tested positive.

A Victorian nurse who tested positive for Covid-19 after working on a dedicated coronavirus hospital ward worked across multiple facilities.

The alarming breach was revealed on Thursday morning by the state’s Covid-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar, who said he was “exceptionally concerned and disappointed” that it had happened.

The fully vaccinated nurse, who tested positive to the virus on Tuesday, worked on the Covid ward at Epping Private Hospital where three Arcare residents who were also confirmed cases were relocated about 11 days ago.

Mr Weimar said the Victorian health department had a provision stating staff working in a dedicated Covid-19 ward with positive patients were not to work across multiple sites.

“We have very clear expectations and strong requirements of the designated Covid wards to look after our most vulnerable patients who are who are suffering with Covid,” he said.

“One of those expectations is that staff are dedicated to that particular ward and do not work elsewhere.

“I’m very concerned and disappointed that this has occurred.

“That should not have been allowed to happen.”

Mr Weimar said the health department would be following up with Epping Private Hospital to seek an explanation on how and why the breach occurred.

The nurse completed two shifts at the Northern Hospital in Epping on June 11 and 12.

As a result, 22 staff at the hospital have been identified as close contacts and are now completing 14 days quarantine.

The nurse also attended a vaccination clinic on June 14 for her final dose of the Covid vaccine.

Another 30 people there – five staff and 25 patients – have also been identified as close contacts of the nurse and will also complete 14 days isolation.

“This really highlights of course the importance of not seeing staff working across multiple sites where we have known Covid case,” Mr Weimar said.

“I had a series of meetings with the CEOs of Northern and Epping Private (hospitals), and other supporting agencies to ensure we re-establish a far more rigorous regime to look after these Covid patients.

“This appears to be an operational error being made by Epping Private that allowed the roster to be run in a way and the attestations for staff to be done a certain way that meant we have a staff nurse working across two different sites.

“It should not be allowed to happen. Had it not been allowed to happen, we would not have seen the impact on Northern Hospital that we see today with 22 staff being furloughed.

“It is disappointing, I’m very unhappy about that situation.”

Mr Weimar said he was confident it would not happen again.

He said the five patients the nurse worked with at Northern Hospital had tested negative and were isolated.

Mr Weimar said they were still waiting for the genomic sequencing data, so it was too early to “be definitive” on where the nurse contracted the virus, but while caring for the three positive Covid-19 patients at Epping Private Hospital was the leading line of inquiry.

Nine primary close contacts have been identified at Epping Private, and they will be required to complete 14 days isolation.

Another 25 staff at Epping Private have been isolated until they receive a negative result, with 22 of them already cleared of having the virus.

Mr Weimar said a daily testing program at Epping Private would continue until the outbreak was cleared and the three positive patients return to the Arcare aged care facility.

There are eight designated Covid wards in hospitals across the state, with the facilities at Epping Private and La Trobe Private hospitals primarily earmarked for aged care residents.

Several new exposure sites published overnight, including the Village Cinemas, public toilets and 400 Gradi at Crown Casino, were associated with the positive nurse.

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