SACRAMENTO, Calif — Staff members at UC Davis Medical Center tested positive for the coronavirus last week while being in the community, prompting hospital officials to warn that "many members" are likely to do the same, according to an internal memo obtained by ABC10.
The memo, which was first reported by The Sacramento Bee, was sent out by UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky to hospital staff on Monday, warning that as more people in the community test positive for the virus, so, too, will hospital staff.
"In the coming days and weeks, there will be literally dozens of our team members who will have to call in sick and stay at home to rest and get well," Lubarsky said in the memo.
Despite the dire warning, hospital leadership attempted to keep staff at ease, adding in the memo that less than 1% of suspected coronavirus patients in the hospital actually turn out to have the infection.
UC Davis has been one of a few Northern California at the forefront of coronavirus patient care, taking in a Solano County resident who contracted the virus from within the community — the first person in the United States to do so.
Still, the California Nurses Association, which represents nurses at UC Davis Medical Center, said the hospital needs to do more to ensure the staff's safety.
"Nurses are ready to care for COVID-19 patients—if they have the protections they need to do that safely," the nurses union said in a statement to ABC10.
The union added that the hospital needs to use Cal/OSHA's protection standards instead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because the former considers COVID-19 an airborne virus.
"CNA also demands employers take responsibility for infections caused at their facility, rather than blaming them on community transmission, so they don't have to take financial responsibility for their workers' COVID-19 infections," the statement continued.
Lubarsky also defended the hospital's efforts to continue doing elective surgeries amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Doctors at UC Davis blasted the hospital for continuing the procedures, saying that they had not received a clear reason as to why they are allowing the surgeries.
"Until we can be absolutely certain that we're not introducing a small, but non-zero risk of spreading this this to patients who didn't necessarily need to be in the hospital, that's something we'd like to avoid," said one UC Davis doctor, who asked to stay anonymous for fear of retribution at work.
Elective procedures can cover a wide swath of surgeries, some of which have more immediate necessity than others.
The doctor acknowledged to ABC10 last week that there was an internal debate over the policy, but said there was growing concern among doctors and nurses that continuing business as usual poses a risk of spreading the virus driving the COVID-19 pandemic, in the same way that other large gatherings of people raised concerns.
Lubarsky said that all of the procedures the hospital odes are ones that "can't wait."
"Our cases moving forward now are, quite simply, patients who cannot wait that long," Lubarsky wrote. "In every case, we involve the individual doctor and affected patients to inform decisions, as the physician - patient relationship is paramount in making medical decisions. These are not the typical 'elective' surgeries performed in other hospitals. That’s not what we do at UC Davis Health.
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