Doctors traveling to Hawaiʻi to in state hospitals on the Big Island will now be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test to begin work.
The new policy was put in place after a traveling physician from the Mainland tested positive for the coronavirus while working at a health clinic in Kaʻū.
A traveling doctor spent two days working at the Kaʻū Hospital and Rural Health Clinic before testing positive for COVID-19. The news traveled quickly through the tight-knit community of Pahala, says Lou Daniele, who runs the Kaʻū Coffee Mill.
"I think this one hit home because it was at the hospital. It was a health care worker that came in and was not tested. And they went to work and started seeing patients," he said.
The physician saw 11 patients at the clinic over two days before testing positive July 6 after feeling ill. Daniele says heʻs confident health authorites did all they could to contain the spread.
"They kind of took care of it right away. You know tested everyone she came into contact. Contact tracing. She was asymptomatic also."
Health officials have initiated contact with the 11 patients and all clinic staff were also tested twice for COVID-19, with all results coming back negative. Pahala resident Jessie Marques, says the incident underscored concerns in the community over reopening out-of-state travel. Marques runs the Kaʻū Rural Health Community Association.
"You know people came in and we ended up with COVID here. And now it also happened in Kona Hospital," Marques said.
At least three Kona Community Hospital employees also recently tested positive for COVID-19. Both the Kaʻū and Kona hospitals are managed by the Hawaiʻi Health Systems Corporation. The corporation is working with labor unions to require a negative test for all employees returning to work after traveling out of the state. Marques says the focus is now on testing.
"We definitely want to address the hard-to-reach populations which is in Ocean View – the Marshallese. So Dr. Miscovich wants to talk with me so we can work on getting them tested."
Marques hopes Dr. Scott Miscovich and his team at Premiere Medical Group Hawaiʻi can detect any possible community spread of the virus.