In a blunt-force interview with KITV television Sunday, Dr. Scott Miscovich–the doctor whose private medical group is performing widespread COVID-19 testing in Hawaii–said every hospital worker should be wearing highly protective N95 masks at all times during the pandemic.
“I don’t care where you are [in a hospital],” said Dr. Scott Miscovich, head of the Oahu-based Premier Medical Group Hawaii. “Every employee in the hospital should be wearing an N95 mask. Some research from today shows again that surgical masks will not protect them as an employee.”
[Surgical masks are normally used to protect patients and mask wearers from droplets and are discarded after one-time use. In contrast, longer-use N95 masks insulate the wearer from airborne particles, protecting both worker and patient.]
At Maui Memorial Hospital, where 31 individuals–22 health workers and 9 patients–had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sunday, the administration’s newly revised mask policy issued last Thursday calls for every health worker to be given one surgical mask per shift, with hospital-issued N95 masks restricted to certain areas of the hospital, unless employees bring their own (and wear surgical masks over them).
“There’s no excuse for [hospitals] not to have the proper gear for the employees in any hospital or clinic in the state of Hawaii,” said Miscovich. “They can’t just sit and wait for the Federal government to dole out the supplies that are free. They need to go and buy to protect their employees.”
Miscovich called assertions by government and hospital officials about shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, “a myth.” He said he had no problem obtaining PPE for his employees, adding “PPE is available everywhere in this state. You could buy literally millions of masks.
“It is so disturbing to me that this is being promulgated through many of our top officials in the state…it is just downright false,” Miscovich said. “N95s, face shields, the full gear—it’s available everywhere. Now is not the time to sit there and wait in the soup line for free. Buy it. Protect your employees. You’ve got to stand up for those people who are putting their lives on the line.”
Miscovich said that he had gotten “great support on testing” from most of the island mayors and singled out Mayor Michael Victorino for particular praise: “He is 100 percent behind knowing that [testing] must be done and is saying ‘Please come.” In contrast, Miscovich said that the state has opposed his private testing group and “is doing everything they can to shut us down, which is just ridiculous. There is zero support from the state and zero funding.”
He also took aim at the state Department of Health for its unwillingness to test asymptomatic individuals. “We know very well now that 20 to 40 percent of people who test positive for COVID are asymptomatic, but can still be shedding [the virus]. Yet, as of yesterday, our department of health is still saying, ‘Don’t test if they’re asymptomatic.’
“There’s such a massive divide between what the world knows and what is being discussed here at our local level by leadership.”
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