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We report our experience with an emergency room (ER) shutdown related to an accidental exposure to a patient with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) who had not been isolated.
A 635-bed, tertiary-care hospital in Daegu, South Korea.
To prevent nosocomial transmission of the disease, we subsequently isolated patients with suspected symptoms, relevant radiographic findings, or epidemiology. Severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assays (RT-PCR) were performed for most patients requiring hospitalization. A universal mask policy and comprehensive use of personal protective equipment (PPE) were implemented. We analyzed effects of these interventions.
From the pre-shutdown period (February 10–25, 2020) to the post-shutdown period (February 28 to March 16, 2020), the mean hourly turnaround time decreased from 23:31 ±6:43 hours to 9:27 ±3:41 hours (P < .001). As a result, the proportion of the patients tested increased from 5.8% (N=1,037) to 64.6% (N=690) (P < .001) and the average number of tests per day increased from 3.8±4.3 to 24.7±5.0 (P < .001). All 23 patients with COVID-19 in the post-shutdown period were isolated in the ER without any problematic accidental exposure or nosocomial transmission. After the shutdown, several metrics increased. The median duration of stay in the ER among hospitalized patients increased from 4:30 hours (interquartile range [IQR], 2:17–9:48) to 14:33 hours (IQR, 6:55–24:50) (P < .001). Rates of intensive care unit admissions increased from 1.4% to 2.9% (P = .023), and mortality increased from 0.9% to 3.0% (P = .001).
Problematic accidental exposure and nosocomial transmission of COVID-19 can be successfully prevented through active isolation and surveillance policies and comprehensive PPE use despite longer ER stays and the presence of more severely ill patients during a severe COVID-19 outbreak.
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