An elderly man who died Tuesday night at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose tested positive for COVID-19 a day after his death, and hospital employees are concerned the patient may have exposed them to the virus, according to several employees who provided information to NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit.
Hospital sources, who NBC Bay Area are not identifying because they could lose their jobs, said the patient, a man in his 80’s, did not show flu-like symptoms when he was admitted last week, and was being treated for kidney failure and dehydration. His death would mark the first coronavirus-related death at the hospital, according to hospital insiders.
Because the patient originally showed none of the common COVID-19 symptoms, he was not quarantined and was cared for by medical personnel wearing minimal personal protective equipment – without masks, in some cases – over multiple shifts at the hospital, according to sources.
But a few days after his admission, the patient began showing flu-like symptoms and was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit, where he was tested for COVID-19, according to sources. The results, which came back positive, did not arrive until Wednesday, a day after the patient’s death, they said.
Hospital staff are now concerned they may have been exposed to the virus, and said the hospital is insisting it will only test medical personnel who are showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Good Samaritan Hospital said it could not discuss the specifics of this case because of patient privacy laws, but sent a statement saying:
“Good Samaritan Hospital is working diligently to help ensure we’re prepared for potential issues related to the spread of coronavirus, and that includes the care of our hard working staff. Our preparedness efforts also involve reinforcing appropriate infection prevention protocols, helping to ensure we have needed supplies and equipment, staffing contingency plans and emergency planning and preparedness. Like all hospitals we treat patients with a variety of ailments every day, and Good Samaritan remains a safe place to receive care and the community should have full confidence in our staff and the care provided at our hospital.”
Santa Clara County has been hit harder than any Bay Area county, with more than 189 confirmed cases and six confirmed deaths as of Thursday, according to the County Health Department.
For weeks, nurses across the Bay Area have been sounding the alarm about hospital preparedness, including lack of adequate staffing and access to personal protective equipment.
On Monday, the California Nurses Association sent a letter to Good Samaritan Hospital and Regional Medical Center demanding more transparency from hospital management, a surge in staffing, and increased access to protective equipment.
Earlier this week, a day before the patient’s death, a Good Samaritan nurse spoke to NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit about concerns that the hospital wasn’t prepared for the pandemic and was putting patient and employee safety in jeopardy.
“I would think twice about taking my family member to Good Sam for COVID-19 care,” the nurse said.
“I think that Good Sam is a reactionary hospital. I don’t think they were prepared.”
They said nurses are getting frustrated by a perceived lack of communication from management.
"We are not given straight numbers about how many patients Good Samaritan has at one time,” the nurse said. “As nurses, that’s anxiety-inducing. There’s lots of nebulous answers.”
They also said nurses are worried about being exposed, and what the hospital will do if they are. As more patients are admitted, they said nurses are being stretched thin.
“In the beginning, it was a 1:1 [patient-to-nurse ratio],” they said. “As the numbers increased, it is becoming a 3-to-1 ration, which means that each nurse has three positive coronavirus patients to take care of in separate isolation rooms. It’s physically impossible to give adequate care with a 3-to-1 ratio.”
In response to the letter from the California Nurses Association, Good Samaritan said in a statement:
“Good Samaritan Hospital has been working in good faith with our nurses and will continue to do so. Our commitment to a strong, safe, and positive work environment and an appreciation of their work with our patients remains unchanged.”
NBC Bay Area will continue to follow this story as we learn more.