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Problems with communication, testing spurred virus outbreak

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Problems with communication, testing spurred virus outbreak

Maui Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 unit registered nurse Randi Casco studies a chart as fellow registered nurse Johnny Thomas cleans May 14. With access to the COVID-19 unit limited, registered nurses assume much of the cleaning duties, a never-ending process that was being done almost continually. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

WAILUKU — Slow testing turnaround times, a lack of communication and circulation of staff and patients through the hospital were at the heart of the COVID-19 outbreak at Maui Memorial Medical Center that grew to include more than 50 patients and staff.

The cluster of cases, which began in late March among 15 employees and was announced in early April, mostly centered around two units at the hospital that had cared for the very first COVID-19 patients. As cases mounted, the outbreak spurred criticism from health care workers who were frustrated over hospital policies and called for the removal of its leadership.

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Now, with just one COVID-19 patient at Maui Memorial and the cluster officially considered “closed” by the state Department of Health, hospital officials sat down with The Maui News on Thursday to talk about how the outbreak began and spread, the hard lessons they learned and what they plan to do differently should a second wave of coronavirus cases appears on Maui. Perhaps chief among the takeaways was the need to communicate better — with workers and the community.

“We fumbled the communication. That was a major problem,” said Dr. Michael Shea, ICU medical director and physician lead for the hospital’s Emergency Operations Center. “Not communicating with the community and also more importantly, not communicating with our staff […]

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