AUSTIN (KXAN) – Expecting mothers are now being tested for COVID-19 even before they walk into several hospitals.
“Patients who are having scheduled child birth inductions at St. David’s North Austin are being forced to undergo COVID testing after several moms have tested positive after giving birth,” said one mom about to have her baby at that hospital. “When I asked if nurses/drs [doctors] exposed to those patients were being tested or have to isolate to protect patients I was told that hospital staff are not being tested or isolated.”
The mom tells KXAN that worries her and puts her at a greater risk. She said she only found out after asking questions about being tested.
St. David’s HealthCare responded to KXAN News that numerous infection prevention measures to keep patients and staff safe have been implemented, including requiring everyone to wear a mask.
“While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend testing for every patient if they are asymptomatic, St. David’s HealthCare is exceeding CDC guidelines by testing all patients prior to surgery or procedures, including delivering a baby—whether through natural birth, induction or C-section,” Dr. Ken Mitchell, Chief Medical Officer with St. David’s HealthCare explained. “As such, women who deliver at our hospitals are tested for COVID-19 prior to delivery. If the test is refused and the patient is asymptomatic, full COVID-19 personal protective equipment is used during stage 2 of labor.”
Dr. Mitchell said if an expectant mother gets to the hospital and requires an emergency procedure, she is screened for COVID-19 symptoms, including a temperature check, and receives a swab test for the virus.
Also, patients who test positive are isolated. Dr. Mitchell explained that patients who test negative are treated in separate areas and assigned to caregivers who are not caring for COVID-19 positive patients.
“All staff and physicians are screened for COVID-19 symptoms, including a temperature check, every day upon entrance into our facilities, and tested when necessary, and our colleagues on the clinical care team are not permitted to work if experiencing any respiratory or other COVID-19 symptoms,” Dr. Mitchell said.
What other hospitals are doing
Baylor Scott & White said new measures and protections are also in place across all hospitals, including COVID-19 testing for all expectant mothers.
“Of our patient-facing employees who had an exposure to a COVID-positive patient, fewer than 1% of those tested were found to be positive. The majority of these exposures happened in the early days of our national response to the novel virus with patients who were not presenting with the then-known symptoms of the virus,” said Christy Millweard, Senior Marketing and Public Relations Consultant. “Over time, as our collective knowledge has increased, including guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, our protocols have changed, and these positives are much less frequent.”
Millweard explained that staff and providers self-monitor for fever and symptoms, which includes temperature checks, “Additionally, our team members are instructed to immediately inform supervisors if they feel ill. Symptomatic employees are removed from work and return to work in accordance with CDC guidelines.”
Ascension Seton explained that all patients with planned procedures must undergo a COVID-19 test at least 48 hours before the scheduled procedure. “Ascension Seton is also confirming that our associates do not have COVID-19 symptoms prior to entry,” said Danielle Hall, Public Relations Manager, but has not said what that includes.
The hospital also explained that temperature screenings are conducting on everyone else who enters their facilities.
“If a pregnant patient is experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19, is confirmed positive for COVID-19 or is a person under investigation (PUI) for the coronavirus, she should notify the obstetric unit prior to arrival so the facility can make appropriate infection control preparations,” said Hall.
The hospitals would not tell KXAN the number of moms who have delivered and tested positive for COVID-19, and it’s not something being tracked right now by the state health department.
How maternal health advocacy groups are helping
Haley Rose has been getting ready for her delivery. She recently found out that she will also have to be tested for COVID-19 and her husband screened for the virus.
“Knowing that everybody that comes in the hospital could expose my doctors and nurses of the facility – yes that’s been – it’s a worry.” Rose said.
Rose is also a member of Circle Up: United Methodist Women which advocates for Maternal Health. She explained that the organization is doing outreach right now to prioritize women’s health during this pandemic.
“I have to just sort of pray and leave it in God’s hand,” Rose explained “… and ask a lot of questions, be an advocate for myself, but I also hope and pray that my physicians and the care facilities are being extremely vigilant to minimize risk.”
March of Dimes which advocates for the health of all mothers and babies has also heard concerns nationwide.
“Moms are very concerned about going to a hospital right now, but we want to remind them that the hospital is still the safest place to give birth,” said Heather Butscher, Maternal and Infant Health Director for Texas.
March of Dimes updated its birth plan during this pandemic, which includes questions for expecting mothers to think about as they prepare for delivery.
“I am right there with these moms. I’m due next month and so every time I go to my doctor I talk about what has changed,” said Butscher.