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Odessa has first virus related death - Odessa American: Local News

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Odessa has first virus related death

Communication issues pop up

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Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 7:14 pm

During Tuesday’s hospital coronavirus press conference, hospital officials deferred multiple questions to the Ector County Health department, one of which was why it took almost 24 hours to alert the public of Odessa’s first COVID-19 related death on Monday.

Communication has been an issue with local information since the COVID-19 crisis started as county, city and hospital officials grappled with how to share public information working through different government entities.

As of 2:18 p.m. Tuesday, the Ector County Health Department website reported that there were 30 confirmed coronavirus cases, 266 negative cases, 101 pending lab results, 397 people tested, and one death.

Medical Center Hospital President and CEO Russell Tippin reported that MCH has 13 total positives, 81 negatives, and 44 pending. They have six positives in house, 4 in CCU on ventilators.

Odessa Regional Medical Center President Stacey Brown reported that ORMC has tested 83 people, nine of which tested positive. They have 61 negatives and 13 pending. She said they have five people in the hospital, four of which are persons under interest and one confirmed who is on a ventilator.

On Monday night, the family of a deceased COVID-19 patient had reached out to media outlets to let them know that their relative had died while members of the county and hospitals did not verify a death until Tuesday’s press conference.

When Brown was asked to confirm that a 69-year-old man had died and was positive for coronavirus, she let ORMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rohith Saravanan answer the question. When asked why it took almost 24 hours to confirm the death, Brown answered that they are following a company policy and couldn’t share patient specific information, but that they did share it with the Ector County Health Department and expected the Health Department to share that information on Monday.

Saravanan said that they alert the Health Department in real time, so with a death, “within the hour, the Health Department will know,” he said.

Brown said, “We will work together as the stake holders in this process to try to make that information more fluid.”

When asked how many are quarantined or how many recovered, Saravanan said that would be a good question for the Health Department.

The Ector County Health Department has not been present at the last few press conferences and Ector County Judge Debi Hays said that they are not allowed to use Zoom messenger on their county computers and county phones due to security reasons. ECHD Director Brandy Garcia said that to get in touch, the media could email them to set up a conference call. Garcia also said that most the time of the daily hospital press conference is also a problem because, “that’s usually when our doctor comes in,” she said, “when we have all of our calls and meetings that we’re doing here with our staff.”

County Commissioner Eddy Shelton on Tuesday said he wants a representative of the health department at the daily Zoom briefings. He said there is no reason that issues on county computers using Zoom should be a holdup adding that cell phones can also be used to Zoom.

The news briefings on Monday changed from in person news conferences to Zoom conferences due to social distancing. Health department officials typically have not attended in person conferences and did not participate Monday or Tuesday in the Zoom briefings.

Garcia said that the reason that it took so long to relate information that there was a death in Ector County was that they found out through Facebook like a lot of people. Hays said that they gather data for a 24 hour period and that the Health Dept or the EOC had received a report for the person who had passed away well after 3 p.m., but only saw it as a number, “But as far as what their complications were, whether they passed away of COVID-19 or they passed away of a heart attack or what their underlying ailments were, we do not have any of that data. That would fall back on ORMC and they would need to be responsible for any of the personal data or physical medical condition of that individual.”

Garcia said that they got that information from a different source on Monday so they weren’t completely sure if it was a COVID-19 patient until later Monday evening. Hays said Facebook people knew about the COVID-19 related death before they knew about it.

When asked if the Ector County Health Dept. would issue a press release for other COVID-19 related deaths, Hays said that would be on the hospitals to do that.

Saravanan said that 35 minutes after the patient had died, the Medical Examiner, Carl Rogers was notified with information regarding the death and that the patient was COVID-19 positive and within an hour, the Health Department Epidemiologist Amrinder Chahal called ORMC to confirm that the case was COVID-19 related, ORMC had called him back and did confirm the death was a patient who tested positive for coronavirus.

“The point is they did call us within an hour of that happening and were able to confirm with the Public Health Department.”

Saravanan said he was under the impression that the medical examiner let Chahal know, but then found out that Chahal learned about the death from Facebook.

Saravanan said that they told the medical examiner that a patient had died and that he was a COVID-19 patient.

Stacey Brown also said that ORMC had reported that information to the medical examiner.

“I don’t think one person should be trying to blame the other,” Saravanan said. “I just feel like there’s these communication barriers we need to work through to make sure that we are giving the same message.”

Odessa, TX

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