Ward at Naas General Hospital closed due to suspected Covid-19 outbreak
Management taking steps to trace staff who had contact with patients on affected ward
A Covid-19 outbreak has been recorded on a ward at Naas General Hospital, with efforts now under way to trace the extent of the cluster. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Hospital managers were informed of the suspected outbreak in the 31-bed ward shortly after 4.30pm on Monday.
It is believed that the source may have been a member of the hospital’s cleaning staff, who tested positive for the disease in recent days.
In an email to hospital managers, consultant microbiologist Dr Sarah Bergin said the facility needed to trace all staff “that had significant exposure to patients” on the affected ward since Monday of last week.
Dr Bergin said the hospital would need to compile a list of staff who were based on the ward, and others who had “significant interaction with patients where appropriate PPE was not used” since August 3rd.
The correspondence was circulated to medical staff in the hospital on Monday evening.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Naas General Hospital said the affected ward had been closed to new admissions.
“The hospital outbreak control team were convened and are undertaking testing and contact tracing of both staff and patients to ensure the protection of public health,” she said.
On Tuesday evening, test results for patients came back as negative, and staff identified as close contacts of the initial case are currently self-isolating, she said.
Co Kildare has been at the centre of a spike in Covid-19 cases in the past week, in part linked to several large clusters in meat processing plants. The Government last week introduced restrictions on counties Kildare, Offaly, and Laois in response to the spike, putting the three counties into an effective partial lockdown for two weeks.
Up until Monday, there had been no current confirmed coronavirus cases present in Naas General Hospital, or any suspected Covid-19 cases in its critical care beds.
As of 8pm on Monday, there were eight suspected cases in the hospital, according to a Health Service Executive (HSE) daily operations report. It is not known how many of these suspected cases are linked to the aforementioned outbreak.
Naas General Hospital had the fourth highest number of suspected cases in the hospital system in the State, according to the HSE report.
There are currently 14 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the entire acute hospital system.
There had been 104 outbreaks in acute hospitals from the start of the pandemic up to Friday evening, according to data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). Prior to the recent case in Naas General Hospital, there had only been one outbreak in a hospital since the end of May.
More than 300 additional cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in Co Kildare in the past fortnight, according to figures provided by the Department of Health on Monday. The 14-day incidence of Covid-19 in Co Kildare currently stood at 138.4 cases per 100,000 of population, almost eight times the national average.
Spread into community
Public health officials are closely watching to see if clusters of cases in meat plants in the midlands have been contained to the facilities, or whether the virus has begun to spread in the community. In recent days the numbers of additional cases in Co Kildare attributed to community transmission have been relatively low.
James Lawless, Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare North, said news of an outbreak in Naas General Hospital was concerning.
“The question mark is was this confined to the meat plants, or is it in the community . . . How many latent cases are walking around the streets?” he said.
In the best case scenario the increase in cases would bottom out following testing of meat plant staff, he said. In the worst case clusters in the plants would have seen workers transmit the virus elsewhere, which could be the “beginning of a second wave in the community”, he said.