PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Several expectant mothers have come from COVID-19-ravaged New York to deliver their children at Women & Infants Hospital, provoking health concerns among staff members, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.
A health care professional who asked not to be identified — saying criticizing the hospital could bring retribution — said several colleagues are worried about being exposed to coronavirus from mothers and their partners from nearby New York.
“These patients and fathers are not wearing masks,” she said. “If they show symptoms, and they decide to actually swab them for COVID-19, the results don’t come back until it’s too late and we expose others.”
A total of 519 have died from COVID-19 in the state of New York, while 44,000 have been infected and 6,481 patients are currently hospitalized, with 1,583 in intensive care.
Those statistics prompted Gov. Gina Raimondo to direct state police to stop and question drivers with New York plates.
Care New England spokesperson Jessica McCarthy said Women & Infants and its doctors have received dozens of requests from out-of-state mothers who want to give birth at the Providence hospital.
“We presently screen all staff, patients and birth-partners for presence of COVID-19,” McCarthy said. “We do not allow partners who have evidence of COVID-19 or are under quarentine for COVID-19.”
McCarthy would not release the number of New York mothers who have given birth at the hospital since the crisis began due to privacy concerns.
The health care worker who contacted Target 12 did not have an exact number, either, but alleged there has been “an influx” of New Yorkers.
McCarthy said “every precaution” is being taken, including asking the mother’s partner to sign a document that states they followed required quarantine protocol.
“We ask them to sign an attestation that they did their 14-day quarantine,” McCarthy said. “We would hope people would be responsible to respect the hospital community.”
The hospital employee said the protocol has not been followed and that “nurses who treat these patients on the postpartum units” often do not have the proper protective gear.
“These patients are not placed on special precautions and have their support person with them from New York, able to walk the halls,” she said. “They use the kitchen without wearing masks.”
McCarthy said Care New England is “doing the right thing for safety,” but she understands the concerns.
“The nurses are doing a great job. They have been amazing,” McCarthy said. “We are taking every precaution, recommended and otherwise, to make sure the staff is safe.”
During Friday’s daily coronavirus briefing, Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott emphasized protocols must be followed to protect health care workers, mothers and children at the hospital.
“We need to take into account those who also are in their third trimester and looking to to deliver babies,” Alexander-Scott said.
McCarthy said the hospital will not turn an expectant mother away and emphasized the hospital is safe for both patients and staff members.
The health care provider who contacted Target 12 said a lack of masks continues to be a problem at local hospitals.
Tim White contributed to this report.
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