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H1N1 Virus Exposure at WSH

Many employees at Western State Hospital have been unknowingly exposed to the H1N1 virus due to the Medical Directors’ actions to prevent notification of direct care WSH employees of the influenza outbreak. The Medical Director stated in an extended management meeting in which I attended on 3/23/16 that he personally ordered that “the pandemic” should not be open knowledge.  The Medical Director also admonished the media and those that contribute to it.  

This particular case is unique in that in the past if an outbreak occurred (for instance with Shingles), a note was posted outside the door allowing staff and visitors to know to not enter the ward if they were at risk.  Such notification was ordered to not occur, thus exposing custodial care employees, patient escorts, consulting doctors, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nurse aides, and even medical nurse consultants to H1N1 when providing care on the ward in question.  Patients on the impacted ward were walked to the medical clinic, exposing all employees and patients they passed in the halls on the way to the clinic.  Clinic employees were exposed by providing direct care.  None was notified of the numerous cases of H1N1 that were confirmed, nor the fact that testing for H1N1 had been discontinued on the specific ward.  By keeping the outbreak secret, the current WSH Administration demonstrated its complete incompetence.  I am aware of an email which WSH claims “notified” WSH of the influenza outbreak.  The following (redacted) email went to Administration alone (none-direct care employees) and was not sent to direct patient care supervisors so that staff could be informed.  I did not receive this email directly, a copy was provided to me by anonymous sources within the past week.  Click on the below email to view the influenza outbreak guidelines which SHOULD have been provided to all WSH employees (but was not). 

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There was a great lag time from initial onset of numerous influenza cases on the ward in question and the initiation of the above email to Administration ONLY.

Because no signs were posted on the ward and the Medical Directors’ self admission that he ordered that “the pandemic” was not to become open knowledge, a unique situation occurred.  KOMO news became the notifier of WSH employees of the H1N1 influenza outbreak.  Follow the below link to that report.

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Upon learning for the first time that a large amount of employees were exposed to H1N1, there was great outrage that Western State Hospital Administration had knowingly PREVENTED this knowledge from being provided to impacted employees.  For a culture of safety to exist at WSH, the current Administration (in its entirety) must be replaced.  For documented reason, there can be no confidence in the current administration to act competently in the future.  Even the Governor (who is responsible for appointing the WSH Administration) was not told of the H1N1 outbreak before he toured WSH. 

After the KOMO report, my peer stated that he went to the impacted ward and was never told of the influenza outbreak…  Further, my peers wife had worked the ward and was never informed of the outbreak.  Neither was provided the required procedure for safety…  Nor were custodial employees or ANY other personnel that were not full time employees of the ward in question.  Were it not for KOMO, no personnel would have known what they were exposed to.  Physicians were exposed during this period, some may have brought influenza home with them to their children.  

Two days AFTER the KOMO report, the following email and intranet posting was generated:

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Note that tone of the email and intranet posting…  Note that the ward in question was not disclosed.  Anonymous sources tell me that an additional H1N1 case was determined PRIOR to the issue of the above email which states “no new reported cases this week.”

On 3/24/16 I presented the above information in the Administrative Morning Briefing (huddle).  I printed the current hospital infection control report, which did not contain accurate H1N1 data.  I was told that the hospital would look into it.  I told Administration of the massive exposures that had occurred by keeping the outbreak secret.  I was told that this information would be presented to the Executive Leadership Team (ELT).  On the same date I attended the Central Safety Committee representing East Campus and conveyed the above information.  This should appear in the Central Safety Committee minutes for the date of 3/24/16.  Our Safety Officer stated that email directions would be forthcoming to direct WSH to file an Employee Injury Report (to Labor & Industries) as an occupational exposure if influenza symptoms developed for appropriate follow-up.  No such email or communication was ever sent to my knowledge.  The cost to the State would be extensive.

On the humorous side of things…  On 3/25/16 the below information was posted to WSH employees.

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WSH is better informed of avian health issues than vital employee health care issues.  To be fair, Administration in charge of this area of WSH is more competent that those that are in charge of clinical patient care.  

The information I present (unfortunately) constitutes only my own PERSONAL opinion and in NO WAY represents the opinion of DSHS, WSH, or the current Governors’ Administration.  

Additional data added per request 3/27/16

Only Administrative personnel were provided the health department protocol for influenza management.   The following is the checklist for outbreak protocol.

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This protocol requires the following signage be posted (no sign was posted outside the ward).

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© Paul Vilja 2017