Tucson hospital fined, waited to isolate patients - East Valley Tribune: Health

Tucson hospital fined, waited to isolate patients

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Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 12:59 pm | Updated: 9:14 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

TUCSON - A hospital was fined $1,000 for waiting too long to isolate two measles patients, including one who is believed to have begun the area's recent outbreak.

State officials said Northwest Medical Center kept a woman - a 36-year-old Swiss tourist thought to have begun the outbreak - in its emergency department for more than 12 hours after a physician ordered that she be placed in isolation. No isolation precautions were taken during that time, according to a state report.

Hospital spokeswoman Kim Chimene said the medical center takes patient safety seriously. "Since then, we've developed an action plan to address the findings of the health department," Chimene said. The hospital has submitted a correction plan to the state.

The outbreak, which started in February and was declared over this week, was one of the nation's largest measles outbreaks in recent years.

Though health officials originally counted 22 cases, they have since revised that number to 13 confirmed cases, along with four "probable" cases.

No one died of measles here, although several victims suffered complications that included fever-related seizures, pneumonia and many ear infections among children. Three patients were sick enough to require hospitalization.

When going to Northwest Medical Center's emergency room in February, the Swiss tourist complained of flulike symptoms, a physician prescribed an antibiotic, and the tourist was discharged.

Northwest was packed to overflowing with flu-stricken patients, setting the stage for massive exposure to the measles virus and an outbreak that cascaded through the community.

The report said the woman returned to Northwest the next morning, complained of a fever and tightness in her chest and had rashes on her abdomen and face. She was admitted to the hospital, and a physician ordered isolation, though she remained in a hallway bed in the emergency department until 10 p.m., the report said.

The emergency department manager told state officials that the isolation order should have been clarified with the physician. The tourist remained in the emergency department until the following morning, when she was transferred to a hospital room.

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