OMC commissioner questions per diem testing policy

PORT ANGELES — The two Olympic Medical Center employees who tested positive for COVID-19 were working in the same department of the Port Angeles hospital, with one a per diem worker who had just begun work there, commissioners were told.

OMC officials announced Saturday that two employees had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Interim CEO Darryl Wolfe said at Wednesday’s meeting that the first worker to contract COVID-19 was a per diem employee who “only worked a couple days” at OMC before reporting viral symptoms.

It was discovered Friday evening that another employee in the same department had tested positive for COVID-19.

“There’s been extensive tracing around those positives with respect to staff members and patients,” Wolfe said in the commissioners’ meeting Wednesday.

“We’ve ramped our incident command back up to twice a week, at least for this week.

“The team did a really a great job over the weekend,” Wolfe added, “just to kind of make sure we manage this the best we could.”

Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank said the risk to patients was low because the infected workers had worn the appropriate personal protective equipment in exam rooms.

All of the patients and OMC employees who were exposed to the infected workers were contacted by public health officials and tested for COVID-19, Unthank has said.

Wolfe said 230 tests were conducted Tuesday and 60 more samples had been collected by Wednesday afternoon.

“Once we start to get those test results, we’ll continue to work this as we have and do the best we can under the circumstances that are kind of coming at us,” Wolfe said.

OMC Commissioner Jim Leskinovitch questioned whether the first employee who contracted COVID-19 had been tested prior to her assignment at OMC.

“The first individual developed symptoms and took it upon herself to seek testing, which is the right thing to do, for sure,” Wolfe said.

“But we had not tested her before she started work. She came up with symptoms during work.”

Testing policy

Dr. Scott Kennedy, OMC chief medical officer, said the hospital does not test per diem workers when they report to OMC and depends on its employees reporting viral symptoms.

“You could test everybody coming and going,” Kennedy said.

“If we had the testing to do that, that might be something that public health would look at the value of. But we’re not testing for individuals coming in.

“Typically these (per diem) folks are coming and going,” Kennedy added.

“We’re calling them in as needed, often on short notice.”

Leskinovitch suggested that OMC test per diem workers if they are based in King County or other COVID-19 hotbeds.

“If we know they’re coming from there a day before, shouldn’t we kind of ask for them to get tested so they could start work the next day?” Leskinovitch asked.

“I’ll just throw that out anyway. It just made sense.”

Wolfe said OMC had been investigating the outbreak in coordination with Clallam County public health and had consulted with health care partners like North Olympic Healthcare Network and the Jamestown Family Health Clinic.

“Dr. Allison Unthank has been there step by step with us these last few days, and actually months,” Wolfe said.

Unthank has defined an outbreak as two or more cases confirmed in a specific site in a short period of time.

A second COVID-19 outbreak that occurred last weekend at Serenity House of Clallam County was confirmed Thursday.

“Public health would not have disclosed Olympic Medical Center if we would have not given them permission,” Kennedy said.

“Basically, we stepped out first in a very transparent fashion. We notified the public.”

Remodeling approved

In other news from the commissioners’ meeting, the OMC board unanimously approved a $319,872 remodel of a building at 1021 E. Caroline St. near the hospital to be used as a wound care clinic.

“Our current wound clinic operates out of two spaces at short stay,” Wolfe said.

“It’s not a sustainable situation. This is a new home for that service, and it does require upgrading the building to hospital standards.”

The project will provide an added benefit of freeing up needed space at short stay, Wolfe said.

“It’s kind of a win-win on all fronts, and we’re able to do this pretty cost effectively,” Wolfe said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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