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'Major stuff-up' - Patient in Middlemore surgical ward tests positive for Covid-19

A man who shared a room with three others in a surgical ward at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland has tested positive for Covid-19.

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Deputy PM Grant Robertson says the mishap during Alert Level 4 at Middlemore Hospital is being looked into. Source: Breakfast

An employee at the hospital confirmed the case to 1 NEWS on Sunday evening. 

Three men are in the room at the Edmund Hillary Block ward, one of them is a 91-year-old who told 1 NEWS a fourth man was admitted around 7am on Sunday.

The elderly man, who does not want to be named, said the person was "sneezing and coughing and made us all worried".

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The person was sharing a room with three others on a surgical ward at Middlemore Hospital. Source: 1 NEWS

He explained that at about 10:30am on Sunday "a few doctors came in to check him out".

Having overheard the conversation with the doctors, he says it became clear to everyone else in the room that the new arrival had Covid symptoms.

"They checked if he had a cough, he had a fever, could not smell or taste and quite frankly – his symptoms were very unpleasant," the elderly patient told 1 NEWS. 

"The three of us in the room were horrified," he said.  

"They gave him a test, we knew he’d been tested because we heard the conversation. 

"He stayed in his bed and slept a lot."

The elderly patient said around 3:30pm two nurses in full PPE arrived and took the man away. 

"At 5pm a nurse came in and said the room is going to be locked down. The ward seemed to empty out at about 3pm. Even though there were no visitors, everything went quiet on the ward."

The three patients remaining in the room expect to be tested in the next several days and say they've "been locked in". 

“I’m 91 – I’m an ill man and seriously at risk. It was so damned obvious when we saw him in the room.

“I feel it’s negligence," he said.

"How did he get admitted into the Edmund Hillary block with three others let alone the fourth floor?"

The 91-year-old man and a 30-year-old man in the same room are both fully vaccinated, while 1 NEWS understands the third patient is not.

Incident shocks family

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Concerned daughter Fiona says her dad and their family are "incredibly upset" over the incident at Middlemore Hospital. Source: Breakfast

The elderly man's daughter, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect her father's identity, told 1 NEWS she could not believe Middlemore Hospital allowed the situation to happen. 

"This is a major stuff-up on Middlemore’s part. I have family world-wide and they are spitting bricks," she said. 

“My family are concerned that this has had an effect on my father. This should never have happened. It’s a procedural issue.

“For a specialist to come in and do his rounds and pick it up, - it’s incompetence at the highest level.”

She said she could not comprehend why the hospital allowed the person who later tested Covid-positive to remain in a room with three other people while he was awaiting test results. 

"There was at least 4-6 hours between the time he took to take the test and the time it took for it to become positive," she said her father had relayed. 

Her father had been admitted to the ward on Friday afternoon after being transferred from the Emergency Department.

A family member of the 91-year-old patient relayed what had happened to ACT leader David Seymour whom they have known for over 15 years.

He was critical of how the incident was dealt with at Middlemore, according to the family's reports.

“Firstly, we understand how much pressure doctors and nurses are under at the moment, it’s winter, there’s Covid and there are enormous shortages of skilled people, partly due to the border being closed,” Seymour told 1 NEWS.

“The second thing, surely Middlemore must have a process of triage to keep Covid patients away from other patients in a hospital setting.

“Third, if he was symptomatic enough to test, they should have separated him from the other patients while he waited for test results.

“Most of us follow the rules to the letter of the law, but to think there would be so much carelessness in a hospital, it will frustrate people who have been desperately following the rules.

“The sad irony is that because these patients were exposed to the Covid case they now won't see their families for two weeks because they’ll be isolating. They may be facing very serious medical challenges which this just adds extra stress to,” Seymour says.

Dad due to be discharged misses out on Father's Day 

Another man in the room, a 30-year-old, had his second vaccine dose a few weeks ago and told 1 NEWS he was due to be discharged today after being in hospital for a week.

“I’ve just got one daughter and it’s Father’s Day, I was supposed to be home,” he says.

“I followed all the lockdown rules, I did everything and now this has happened. I thought I was in the best care but apparently it was the biggest mistake to come in.

“We did not know about this Covid case until about 4pm.

“This morning he came in about 6 or 7am and we woke up and wondered who he was, he wasn’t wearing a mask,” the man said.

“He seemed really crook, you could hear it in his chest. He was pretty much sleeping all the time.”

He confirmed the positive case left the surgical ward about 2.30-3pm and “then the nurse didn’t come in and tell us about him testing positive until 4pm.

“They were sorting out all the nurses who had been in contact with him too. We overheard bits of them talking so we were getting worried.

“He shouldn’t have even been on this ward.

“They said we’ve got 48 hours for the virus to take effect, so maybe we’ll get tested tomorrow,” he said.

“There’s no plan in place, there’s no rooms for us to go to - to get isolated, it sounds like they are making it up as they go.

“People should not be able to slip into a hospital with Covid."

He said the nurses were amazing there but, “weren’t ready for this, now they are suffering and they have to isolate too because they’ve been in contact”.

“I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else, they need to really up their game,” he said. 

Middlemore Hospital s already under serious pressure due to staffing shortages. Source: Local Democracy Reporting

Middlemore Hospital and the Ministry of Health have been approached for comment, the ministry says it only updates case numbers at the 1pm briefing.