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60 Guam Memorial Hospital staffers contracted Covid

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The number of Guam Memorial Hospital staffers who have tested positive for Covid-19 from the time the pandemic started seven months ago to Oct. 5 has reached 60, according to hospital Administrator Lillian Perez-Posadas.

That number includes 30 registered nurses and five doctors overall. The most recent to get infected was a nurse, Perez-Posadas added.

Early last month, 32 staffers tested positive for Covid-19 within a few weeks. One nurse, who died in late August while she was a diabetic patient for weeks at the hospital, tested positive within the week she died after testing negative several weeks before. Public health officials also confirmed in April that 12 staffers had tested positive.    

The hospital had 468 people on its nursing staff and 1,025 total employees as of September 2019, according to its most recent audited financial statements. The number of Covid infections represents about 6% of its total staff.

GMH functions as the island's designated Covid Care Hospital but accommodates both Covid-19 and non-Covid acute care patients. Both types of patients require negative pressure rooms depending on their illness, condition and level of care, according to Perez-Posadas.

Perez-Posadas said the infection isolation and negative pressure-capable rooms have been effective in the implementation of the hospital's evolving pandemic plan.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report on the facilities assessment at GMH, released in April, states the hospital has 14 certified Airborne Infection Isolation rooms and 45 negative-pressure capable rooms.

Several people wheel in a food cart into the front entrance of Guam Memorial Hospital on Sept. 24, 2020 in Tamuning. Photo by David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

As of Tuesday, GMH had 40 hospitalized Covid patients and 14 were in the intensive care unit, according to the Joint Information Center.

The Army Corps of Engineers inspectors noted the infection isolation rooms were properly functioning despite the overall negative building pressure. Its  Facilities Condition Assessment of the hospital was published following its November 2019 inspection of the hospital.

With regard to infection control and the hospital's ventilation system, the military's assessment reported that the single most significant observation was the lack of appropriate building pressure control.

With nearly all outside air systems taken out of service, the hospital has become negatively pressured, drawing outside air into the facility through cracks and other openings, the assessment report states. The end result is high humidity, high temperatures, condensation and mold in some places, according to the assessment.

"The negative building pressure makes maintaining pressure relationships between spaces within the building problematic," the assessment stated.

GMH is trying to add to its capacity to provide care to Covid patients.

"With the recent spikes/surge of Covid patients, it prompted the need for additional negative pressure rooms and therefore, GMHA, in collaboration with Team Guam, (Army Corps of Engineers) and its contractors, are actively creating a total of seven additional Covid negative-pressure rooms," Perez-Posadas said.

How far along the process to add additional rooms, was not clear.

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