BRICK – Hackensack Meridian Health, which operates Ocean Medical Center (formerly known as Brick Hospital), responded to reports that more than 100 employees might have COVID-19.
A memo on November 20 was recorded by NJ.com before being removed from the Hackensack website. It read:
“A story we have seen over and over again since the beginning of the pandemic has played out within our hospital system. More than 100 of our team members are out of work at one hospital after several of our colleagues socialized outside of work and then unknowingly exposed both other colleagues, and patients to COVID-19. We are all human, and working within our hospital – and following our strict guidelines day in and out to great success – can lull us into a false sense of security when we are beyond these walls. What we know better than anyone, is that it only takes one gathering. One lapse of judgement. One event where we are lax in complying with best prevention practices. This scourge of a disease can take one bend of the guidelines – guidelines we know work to protect us – and inflict tremendous impact. We are feeling that now.”
A report released by the hospital on November 30 stated that 1,000 employees over 16 hospitals and other medical facilities were out of work.
Hackensack defined “out of work” as those with positive cases and those with symptoms who are undergoing testing.
This statistic does not explain how the virus was transmitted. It could have been from patients, for example.
A spokesman from Hackensack said less than 1.5% of the company’s total workforce – across all locations – is out of work. They are seeing more people returning to work rather than leaving.
“This has not impacted patient care at Hackensack Meridian Ocean Medical Center or any of our other hospitals, and all medical services are open,” he said. “We continue to have adequate staffing and follow all rigorous safety protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and the New Jersey Department of Health. This includes increased daily COVID-19 testing of team members in any of our units with a greater probability or incidence of confirmed cases. Greater surveillance of team members better enables us to identify those who are asymptomatic but test positive and ensure they rest at home.”
If an employee tests positive, they are required to self-quarantine at home. Then, contact tracing is done to determine who they have been close to. Those people also self-quarantine.
When arriving at work, employees undergo a “comprehensive screening,” including a temperature check, they said.
If there is an issue, the employee is instructed to report to Occupational Health and not come to work.
When arriving at a location, patients are tested. Staff have also begun serial testing patients that stay for more than two days. This is because it might take a few days for the virus to incubate. So, a patient might bring it into the hospital without realizing they are sick.
The buildings have had an intensive cleaning regimen including hand-held misters, and ultraviolet lighting in all treatment and common areas.
Locally, the hospital chain oversees Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Stafford have instituted new procedures.
Hackensack had started a network-wide restriction on visitors on November 15.
They are explained in detail here: hackensackmeridianhealth.org/covid19/visitor-restrictions/ There are general changes for all buildings and specific ones for each medical facility. They involve number of visitors, and that visitors should wear masks and be symptom free. The rules are subject to change, so visiting this site is the best way to know for sure that you are seeing the most up-to-date information.
Some rules did not change, said Dr. Kenneth N. Sable, Regional President, Hackensack Meridian Health, Southern Market. For example, staff have been tested for the virus or antibodies on a regular basis. There are still temperature screening and other monitoring of people coming to the hospital. COVID-19 patients have a different area of treatment and pathways in the buildings than non-COVID-19 patients. Disinfecting, social distancing, and cleaning and sanitizing of all areas have continued to be done. Additionally, there have been “above and beyond” measures such as using ultra violet light cleaning and fogging and testing air, water and surfaces.
A spokesman for Hackensack was asked numerous questions by this newspaper. Most of them were answered and the answers are in this article. The spokesman did not give the exact number of employees who tested positive at the Brick location, the timeline of when staff started to test positive, or if there is evidence that it spread to patients from staff.