A third of the infected employees worked at wards treating patients infected with the coronavirus. Of the nurses working at the coronavirus wards, approximately one in three contracted the virus. A significant proportion of the infections occurred between employees.
Coronavirus infections were also diagnosed in the employees of other wards, though in significantly lower numbers.
During the outbreak, a total of 32 patients who had come to the hospital for some other reason than a suspected coronavirus infection also contracted the virus. Of the patients who contracted the coronavirus at the hospital, 10 died.
“The outbreak was ultimately caused by a number of different factors. The source of the infections could not be determined with certainty in all of the cases. There were multiple sources of infection”, says Chief Physician Sanna Isosomppi from the City of Helsinki’s Epidemiologic Operations Unit.
“Patients contracted the virus from employees and other patients who initially tested negative, employees contracted it from patients and employees also contracted it from one another. Some employees also contracted the virus during their free time,” Isosomppi continues.
Strict measures proved effective
Following the outbreak, everyone working in the hospital area was tested, with the extensive testing revealing 30 new infections. Of these, 11 remained completely asymptomatic during follow-up monitoring. The total number of tests performed was nearly 1,000.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s (THL) and HUS’s coronavirus pandemic protection guidelines were followed in Laakso. Protection measures were further tightened in response to the outbreak at the hospital. Hospital staff started wearing surgical masks in the treatment of all patients, including asymptomatic ones, and during contacts between staff members. In addition to this, hospital staff also switched to using higher-than-normal protection level FFP2 face masks in the close contact treatment of coronavirus patients. Staff canteen facilities were also closed.
“Knowledge of the wide range of coronavirus symptoms grew as the oubreak progressed. In elderly patients, the only symptom may be a deterioration in general condition. In suspected coronavirus cases, the patient’s isolation and precautions against contact and droplet transmission should be continued even if the patient’s test results are initially negative. It is important that we also continue the low-threshold testing and screening of patients and employees,” says the Medical Director of Helsinki City Hospital Laura Pikkarainen.
The treatment of coronavirus patients in Helsinki has been centralised to HUS and Laakso Hospital. At present, there are only three coronavirus patients still being treated at the Laakso coronavirus wards.
Picture: Marja Väänänen