• The Star Staff

Physicians Association president confirms COVID-19 outbreak at Arecibo hospital

Licensed Practical Nurses spokesperson: Other hospitals to face similar outbreaks

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Physicians and Surgeons Association of Puerto Rico (CMCPR by its Spanish initials) President Víctor Ramos confirmed Monday that Dr. Susoni Metropolitan Hospital in Arecibo is facing a COVID-19 outbreak involving at press time some 25 nursing practitioners and three physicians.

Ramos told the Star that hospital personnel called him in confidentiality to raise their concerns to the pediatrician, telling him that the hospital administration hasn’t managed the outbreak properly. Meanwhile, the CMCPR president said the island Department of Health is aware of the matter.

“I assume that the Health Department will conduct an investigation,” Ramos said. “Our request to any hospital administration is to be responsible; it’s not strange that there are cases among health personnel as we are the ones who attend to COVID-19 patients, but if there are any cases, we must manage them aggressively to stop it from spreading and turn out to be a spreader event.”

The Arecibo hospital, which is part of the Metro Pavia Health System hospital network, has put a dozen employees who were diagnosed with COVID-19 in quarantine to prevent community outbreaks.

Meanwhile, Licenced Practical Nurses Association spokesperson Julio Irson Ramos told the Star that San Francisco Metropolitan Hospital, which is also part of the Metro Pavia Health System, faces a similar issue where the hospital administration “is holding onto the same modality.” The nurse practitioner said the management is not enforcing a proper COVID-19 safety protocol with its personnel.

“At San Francisco Hospital, both emergency room and floor personnel have been exposed to the coronavirus; there’s a developing hotspot taking place, similar to what happened to another hospital within the metropolitan area that had to shut down its Surgery Department because they lacked the workforce to run that department,” he said. “They are not establishing a protocol for how will they handle any situation with employees, how will they report among employers and the opportunity that employers must offer workers to rehabilitate.”

Irson Ramos said the hospital management issued an administrative order at the beginning of the pandemic that provided a 14-day quarantine, which was later reduced to 10 days. Still, he said, the management at San Francisco Hospital “is using compliance with the 10 days [of quarantine] as an excuse so employees come back without a negative test result because if not, they get written up.”

“This is disastrous; allowing an outbreak to occur in a hospital because we are limited in staff, this has no forgiveness from God,” he said. “We are playing with the lives of professionals. We are putting at risk not only those professionals but also their families and an entire community.”

Irson Ramos added that every health worker must be treated with respect, and that hospitals must stop using strategies to weaken safety guidelines as the field faces a personnel shortage. He demanded better working conditions, proper personal protective equipment, optimal working hours, more testing and improved nutrition as “exhaustion is the immune system’s worst enemy.”

“One hundred sixteen physicians have been infected, 800 nurses have been infected, almost 50 respiratory therapists have been infected with COVID-19 -- a second casualty of a respiratory therapist came from San Francisco Hospital,” Irson Ramos said. “The hospital management must do every test required by law and a pulmonologist must evaluate every report.”

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