Kaiser pharmacy closes, 7 workers test positive for virus

Coronavirus

Those employees are now self-isolating at home

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Seven pharmacy employees at the Kaiser Westside Medical Center have tested positive for COVID-19. Now, the pharmacy is temporarily closed.

Those seven employees, who all worked together, are now self-isolating at home.

The outpatient pharmacy at the medical center is closed, but Kaiser said the closing was also related to reducing the number of people in the hospital as they plan for an increase in coronavirus patients.

Everyone, including staff, is being screened before the enter the building.

In late February, medical staff who came in contact with Oregon’s first presumptive case had to self-isolate for two weeks. All of those employees tested negative and have since returned to work.

Continuing Coverage: The Coronavirus

Today, pharmacy employees received a message which stated, “We know you may be feeling anxious and have concerns about COVID-19 exposure and workplace safety…”

Together Kaiser, Local 5-55, and the Guild for Professional Pharmacists put a number of safety measures in place, such as delivering prescriptions to COVID-19 patients to their home or exam room, and installing plexiglass barriers to act as sneeze guards. Employees started wearing masks while working in the pharmacy and washed their hands every hour.

That letter ended by stating, “We are humbled by your dedication and service as health care professionals, working together through these formidable challenges.”

When corresponding with KOIN 6 News, a Kaiser Permanente spokesperson indicated that the pharmacy had closed, however, the Portland Tribune reports that the closure is to the public only, and that “the pharmacy is still open for internal operations related to the hospital, and staffers are still working there.”

For now, patients who need refills on their prescriptions can go to pharmacies nearby in Hillsboro or Beaverton. KOIN 6 News asked when the Kaiser Westside Medical Center pharmacy will be reopened; officials said the timing is related to securing the hospital, so it will continue until the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

Read the full letter sent to employees:

KPNW Pharmacy Team,

We know you may be feeling anxious and have concerns about COVID-19 exposure and workplace safety.

Working in partnership — Kaiser Permanente, UFCW 555, and the Guild For Professional Pharmacists – have been collaborating throughout our response to this evolving situation. Together, we are committed to providing critical care to our members and the safest conditions for our employees and clinicians. 

As scientific knowledge and supply chains advance, we are continually focused on identifying and making improvements to provide safe working conditions and care for our members.

Following are current service and safety measures we’re taking across our pharmacy locations:

  • Member windows: Every other window is being closed to support social distancing. Plexiglas barriers have been installed as sneeze guards.
  • Curbside delivery: Members should remain in their vehicles and out of the pharmacy lobby. Workflows for curbside deliveries are being refined to limit risk of exposure for members and employees.
  • Home delivery and in-clinic delivery: PUI and patients who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are getting prescriptions delivered to their homes or in the exam room, rather than entering our pharmacies.
  • Mail order: An intense, proactive promotion of mail order pharmacy is working. Currently, mail order pharmacy accounts for approximately 70 percent of our total volume, compared to 50 percent pre-COVID-19.
  • Facilities:  Frequent and enhanced cleaning is being performed in Pharmacy facilities, including deep cleans. And, we are implementing cleansing of biometric devices.  Look for new instructions on how to properly clean the biometric devices using 70% isopropyl alcohol.  Additional cleaning supplies are available in each pharmacy for staff to use, if desired, for more frequent cleaning. It is recommended to wipe down high touch surfaces every two hours.
  • Temporary remote work:  Over 65 workstations were deployed to allow temporary remote work and allow for greater social distancing.
  • Alternate work sites: Workstations were moved to conference rooms and employees were deployed to closed locations for greater social distancing.
  • Employee actions:  Employee should wear masks in the pharmacy and wash their hands hourly.  If you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, diarrhea, or loss of taste/smell, do NOT come to work.  Follow usual ill call procedures and also contact Employee Health for further screening.
  • Partnering with Employee Health and Infection Control: This coming week, experts from Employee Health and Infection Control, along with labor partners will visit inpatient, outpatient, oncology, mail order, and home infusion pharmacies to make recommendations on any workflow changes that can reduce the risk of transmission.   

Staying informed and taking care of yourself is essential.

We are humbled by your dedication and service as health care professionals, working together through these formidable challenges. Please know, we are listening and working diligently on your behalf to provide answers, safety, and support.

Thank you

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