PORTLAND, Oregon (KOIN) – Seven pharmacy workers at the Kaiser Westside Medical Center tested positive for COVID-19. Now the pharmacy is temporarily closed.
These seven employees, who have all worked together, are now isolated at home.
The medical center’s outpatient pharmacy is closed, but Kaiser said the closure was also linked to a reduction in the number of people in the hospital when they expected an increase in the number of patients with coronavirus.
Everyone, including staff, is screened before entering the building.
At the end of February, the medical staff who came into contact with Oregon’s first suspected case had to self-isolate for two weeks. All of these employees tested negative and have since returned to work.
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Today, pharmacy workers received a message that said, “We know you may be feeling anxious and have concerns about COVID-19 exposure and workplace safety …”
Together, Kaiser, Local 5-55 and the Guild for Professional Pharmacists have implemented a number of safety measures, such as dispensing prescriptions to COVID-19 patients at their home or exam room, and installing plexiglass barriers to act as sneeze guards. Employees started wearing masks while working in the pharmacy and washing their hands every hour.
This letter ended by stating, “We are touched by your dedication and service as health professionals, working together through these tremendous challenges.”
In correspondence with KOIN 6 News, a spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente said that the pharmacy had closed, however, Portland Tribune Reports that the closure is reserved for the public and that “the pharmacy is still open for internal operations related to the hospital, and the staff is still working there.”
For now, patients who need to refill their prescriptions can go to pharmacies near Hillsboro or Beaverton. KOIN 6 News asked when the pharmacy at Kaiser Westside Medical Center will reopen; Officials said the schedule was related to securing the hospital, so it will continue until the end of the coronavirus epidemic.
Read the full letter sent to employees:
Pharmacy team KPNW,
We know you may be feeling anxious and worried about COVID-19 exposure and workplace safety.
Working in partnership – Kaiser Permanente, UFCW 555 and Guild For Professional Pharmacists – have collaborated throughout our response to this evolving situation. Together, we are committed to providing intensive care for our members and the safest conditions for our employees and clinicians.
As scientific knowledge and supply chains progress, we are continually focusing on identifying and improving working conditions and care for our members.
Here are the service and safety measures we currently take in our pharmacies:
- Member windows: All other windows are closed to promote social distancing. Plexiglass barriers were installed as sneeze protectors.
- Street curb delivery: Members must stay in their vehicle and outside the pharmacy hall. Workflows for curbside deliveries are being refined to limit the risk of exposure to members and employees.
- Home delivery and clinic delivery: PUI and patients who tested positive for COVID-19 get prescriptions delivered to their homes or exam rooms, rather than entering our pharmacies.
- Mail order: Intense and proactive mail order pharmacy promotion works. Currently, the mail-order pharmacy represents around 70% of our total volume, compared to 50% before COVID-19.
- Installations: Frequent and improved cleaning is done in pharmacy establishments, including deep cleaning. And, we implement the cleaning of biometric devices. Look for new instructions on how to properly clean biometric devices with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Additional cleaning supplies are available at each pharmacy so that staff can use them, if desired, for more frequent cleaning. It is recommended to wipe high contact surfaces every two hours.
- Temporary remote work: More than 65 work stations have been deployed to allow temporary distance work and allow greater social distancing.
- Alternative sites: Workstations have been moved to conference rooms and employees have been deployed to closed locations for greater social distancing.
- Employee actions: The employee must wear masks in the pharmacy and wash their hands every hour. If you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, diarrhea or loss of taste / odor, do NOT come to work. Follow standard sick call procedures and also contact employee health for further screening.
- Partnership with employee health and infection control: Next week, employee health and infection control experts, as well as labor partners, will visit hospital, outpatient, oncology, mail order and home infusion pharmacies to make recommendations on any change in workflow that may reduce the risk of transmission.
Staying informed and taking care of yourself is essential.
We are touched by your dedication and service as healthcare professionals, working together through these formidable challenges. Please be aware that we listen and work diligently on your behalf to provide answers, security and support.
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