Coronavirus: 91yo 'absolutely appalled' he shared Middlemore Hospital room with COVID-positive patient

A patient at Middlemore Hospital says it was negligent to leave him and other patients in a room with a new admission who was coughing and awaiting a COVID-19 test. 

The COVID-positive patient went to Middlemore at 5pm on September 4 with atypical COVID-19 symptoms. After routine COVID exposure questioning, they weren't identified as a risk and were moved to an adult short stay ward from the emergency department.

At 7am on Sunday, they were moved to a surgical ward where concerns about their condition resulted in them being tested for COVID-19. They then tested positive at 3pm and were moved to the respiratory ward dedicated to COVID patients.

The COVID-positive patient was at one point put into a room with three others, including 91-year-old Keith.

"What's happened is absolute blatant negligence and I say that with absolute certainty," Keith says.

His family, including his son Randall, agrees. 

"Basic COVID precautions don't appear to have been followed," he says.

"Someone has to be held accountable for this because you're putting people's lives at risk."

Keith's daughter Fiona agrees too.

"I think that's just absolutely appalling."

The Health Ministry says the patient was admitted on Saturday night with abdominal pain and that they were also asymptomatic. Keith believes the latter of that is "absolute bullshit".

"We've talked about that. He was not asymptomatic. He was coughing and spluttering. You could hear the mucus," he says.

The COVID-positive patient was transferred into his room that he shared with two others at about 7 to 7:30am on Sunday and they were coughing at this time.

From this time until the patient tested positive, it means others were left with the case for around eight hours.

Keith's daughter-in-law Raewyn says all patients in the room were put at risk. 

"They're like three sitting ducks basically. I'm just disgusted."

ACT party leader David Seymour is horrified at the situation.

"I think people will be so frustrated having carefully followed the rules at great cost to see this kind of carelessness in the one place you'd expect them to be careful," he says.

Keith says not only was the COVID-positive patient not always wearing a mask, but staff attending to him were also only wearing the blue surgical masks. That was until he tested positive and they donned full personal protective equipment.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty Images

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says action should have been taken after the test was carried out. 

"At that point in time, that person should have ideally been isolated from others on the ward."

But that didn't happen - the DHB has not explained why. 

"Nobody has communicated anything," Keith's daughter Fiona says. "I haven't heard a word from the hospital."

John Amosa endured a similar ordeal at Waitakere Hospital, saying he shared a room with someone who was COVID-positive. 

"When I was discharged at 5:30 that morning, that's when I was told that person had COVID," he says. "I was a little taken aback."

Counties Manukau DHB says all patients and staff on two wards at Middlemore Hospital are now considered close contacts, but couldn't say how many people in total had been affected. 

"As a consequence, the wards have been closed to any new admissions and patients are being cared for as COVID exposed by staff using appropriate PPE," a spokesperson says. 

They also say that Middlemore Hospital is no longer admitting COVID-positive patients, and instead they were being diverted to Auckland City Hospital while officials worked out the exposure risks at Middlemore. 

As for the incident at Waitakere Hospital, the DHB confirmed a suspected COVID-positive patient who was later confirmed to have the virus spent time in a "COVID-streamed" six-bed area with one other patient. 

"They were well-separated by closed curtains and kept two beds apart," a spokesperson says. 

The DHB also says there was a PPE breach when the COVID-positive patient removed his mask but testing of staff revealed no evidence of transmission. 

The spokesperson says as possible COVID-19 patients were cohorted away from other patients, it wasn't the same as what occurred at Middlemore.