Hospitals might have become Covid-19 outbreak sites in Latvia

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Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly 1,500 patients seem to have got this infection in hospitals, Latvian Radio reported January 25.

Despite a high number of Covid-19 patients seemingly getting infected at hospitals, epidemiologists point out that hospitals cannot be directly named infection sites blamed because the virus develops within 14 days, and a negative test on hospital admission is not a guarantee that the disease has not been encountered before the hospital.

After nearly a month of being in the hospital, pensioner Jānis from Jēkabpils'  relatives were told his operation had been successful and he would be discharged in two days. A few days later, the family asked the hospital where he was, but got the answer he had died - of Covid-19. They were puzzled about why they were not informed by the hospital about the sudden fact of death, and moreover, where Jānis could have got the virus if he had been tested negative upon admisson and had spent several weeks there.

Jēkabpils Hospital Board chair Margarita Meļņikova initially urged such cases not to be highlighted.

“You really want to exacerbate the whole situation? It is not easy for those doctors. Then you will further exacerbate the overall situation that is happening in the healthcare system. My experience is that any public description of the complaint does not increase any positivity for either the patient or to the hospital,”  Meļņikova  said.

After a few days she took the position that the particular patient would not be talked about, and no claims had been raised by the family of the deceased.

“If you want to find out some information about a particular person, you can't do that, given the patient's rights and protection. In what way could I give you some information? I cannot give you general information in this way,”  Meļņikova  said.

Other hospitals are more talkative about Covid-19 distribution within the hospitals. Most Covid-19 patients are treated at Riga East Clinical University Hospital (RAKUS). The head of the hospital's Infection Monitoring Service Māris Liepiņš said that the virus is also circulating in the hospital itself, affecting patients with other diagnoses. 

“From the beginning of October, we have had departments that we have been forced to close due to the fact that there were outbreaks in the department. That's how we've had this problem. Flare-ups periodically in some departments. If there are bigger outbreaks, we're closing the department,” Liepiņš said.

One of the reasons why Covid-19 spreads within hospitals is the staff who bring the infection there.

Secondly, testing patients before admission does not mean that the virus will not activate after a day or ten days because it has a 14-day incubation period, said Jurijs Perevoščikovs, epidemiologist of the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC).

Therefore, Māris Liepiņš of RAKUS explained that patients without Covid-19 are also being tested again on the third, fifth a and then again.

The Disease Prevention and Control Center doesn't have accurate data on how many patients got Covid-19 in each of the hospitals.  The head of the Centre's Patient Safety and Health Care Quality Development Division, Santa Pildava, said that a total of 1441 patients, or 2.6% of all Covid-19 patients, could have been infected in hospitals since January 17 last year.

“But we cannot fully safely claim that all these people have been infected in the hospital because there is a possibility that the infection has occurred before the hospital," said Pildava.

However, the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control promises to analyze such data. At this time, it is known Covid-19 has been the direct cause of death or contributed to death for 580 individuals. Of these, 83% died in hospitals, which is understandable, since most of the most serious Covid-19 patients come to hospitals.


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