Coronavirus: Concerns over advice for at-risk patients leaving Middlemore Hospital after person admitted tested positive

A senior executive at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital has apologised to patients left in a room for hours with a patient who later tested positive for COVID-19. 

The COVID-positive patient went to Middlemore on September 4 with atypical COVID-19 symptoms. They were moved to a surgical ward and later to the respiratory ward after they tested positive. At one point before it was confirmed they had the virus, the infected person was sharing a room with three other people.

Ray Robertson's wife was on the same ward as the COVID-positive patient, and neither of them knows how it occurred. 

"I think it was a lack of communication more than poor communication because there wasn't any communication regarding it," Robertson says.

What concerns him more is the lack of information his family was given after he collected his wife - a close contact - from the hospital on Monday night.

She was told to isolate at home, but Robertson has diabetes and his son is an essential worker heading out into the community every day.

They called Healthline and Robertson was told he's now also a close contact as he was in the same car as his wife and his wife should go into managed isolation.

"It's definitely a blunder. Someone there should know what they're talking about and give the right advice to patients who are being discharged," he says.

The most at-risk are the three patients who shared a room with the COVID case. One of them is 91-year-old Keith who says a senior executive came to say sorry on Monday night.

"He was apologising for the fact that we'd been put in those circumstances which we shouldn't have been, where we were exposed to risk," he says.

But Keith's family say 48 hours on, no one at the DHB has bothered to pick up the phone to explain what's happened.

Keith's daughter, Fiona, told Newshub she has no idea how long he'll be in isolation, when exactly he'll be tested or how at risk he is of contracting the virus.

At the COVID-19 update on Tuesday, more was revealed about the Middlemore COVID patient's household; Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed that eight of the 11 people in that household have now tested positive.

There are now 841 cases in total in this outbreak and 817 have been epidemiologically linked - meaning we know how they were infected. But there are uncertainties too and health officials say there are 24 mystery cases.  

In the past week, 10 mystery cases have emerged and it's these that are causing concern.

"If they were occurring today and yesterday and the day before, yes that's a worry because it means we haven't extinguished all the burning embers across the city," epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says.

And identifying them is critical. 

"You'd be very wary of moving down the alert levels if you're still seeing mystery cases," he adds.

Until health officials can solve these mysteries, Auckland could well be stuck in alert level 4.