Cohort quarantine system proves disastrous at nursing homes

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Cohort quarantine system proves disastrous at nursing homes

A medical staff member at an elderly nursing home in Guro District, western Seoul, on Dec. 30. [YONHAP]

A medical staff member at an elderly nursing home in Guro District, western Seoul, on Dec. 30. [YONHAP]

Lockdowns at nursing homes with Covid-19 patients have largely backfired, said a doctor at a nursing home based in Gyeonggi, where nearly 50 people have died of coronavirus infections since last month.
“We were left to fend on our own after the government imposed cohort quarantine of the hospital,” a doctor surnamed Kim who heads the Hyo Plus Hospital, a nursing home in Bucheon, Gyeonggi, told the JoongAng Ilbo last week.  
Cohort quarantine means sealing off the hospital that gave way to Covid-19 cases, including with non-Covid patients and caregivers. Only those who test positive are allowed to leave the hospital to be treated.
The hospital first succumbed to Covid patients when six of its caregivers tested positive on Dec. 11. Then the cohort quarantine system was imposed. By Jan. 3, there were 160 cases with 47 deaths.
Because the Hyo Plus Hospital does not specialize in infectious diseases, Kim said it was hard to adhere to strict distancing measures, especially as their medical personnel and caregivers continued to test positive and leave the hospital.
There were also delays in sending the Covid-19 patients to other hospitals that specialized in Covid-19 care due to lack of beds.
“The government provided us with some helping hands, but none of them were trained for the type of care needed at nursing homes for the elderly,” another medical staff member at the hospital told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We had staff members continue to test positive and leave the hospital and not enough replacements. […] The cohort quarantine system made it so that only the dead could leave the chaos we were in.”
In the case of another nursing home where cohort quarantine was imposed last month, in Guro District, western Seoul, there has been at least 10 deaths of non-Covid patients.  
“I think it was because some elderly patients saw that there was a serious lack of staff members at the hospital with the onset of Covid-19 patients and the cohort system,” a doctor of the nursing home told the JoongAng Ilbo on Dec. 31. “Some of them wore diapers and needed daily care. I think some of them stopped eating altogether when they saw how the staff members were struggling.”
The hospital had its first case of Coivd-19 on Dec. 15, 2020. The cohort quarantine system was imposed. By Dec. 30, 190 cases were recorded.
Cohort quarantine at other nursing homes has also resulted in spikes of Covid-19 cases.
At least 14 nursing homes imposed cohort quarantine measures in December after recording Covid-19 cases. These hospitals saw some 996 cases and 99 deaths by the end of the month, according to the records at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters. 
The headquarters admitted in a press briefing on Jan. 3 that the cohort quarantine did not work.
“The system at these hospitals to care for patients of infectious diseases were inadequate and they also lacked medical support for the cohort quarantine system to work,” said Sohn Young-rae, a director of the headquarters. “The cohort quarantine system resulted in an increase of Covid-19 patients at these hospitals. From now on, the cohort quarantine system will ensure that the Covid-19 patients and non-Covid-19 patients are separated from the beginning.”
Sohn said that nursing homes will be categorized into two, with one group designated to treat only the elderly patients who test positive, and the other group designated to treat elderly patients not infected with Covid-19.
He said that the government will continue to test the caregivers and medical staff members regularly at the nursing homes, and that they will assist with ensuring there are enough medical staff members at hand at the nursing homes.

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