It appeared that 95-year-old Lillian Seiser, who contracted COVID-19 and developed pneumonia while hospitalized at Maui Memorial Medical Center, had beaten the disease after testing negative on Tuesday. But the next day, she tested positive for a second time.
Her daughter, Barbara Carlson, said she was informed by a hospital worker that Seiser was placed in a room with another coronavirus patient and may have been reinfected with the virus.
“We were all excited thinking she’s finally going to get out of isolation,” Carlson said. “Why would someone with COVID-19 have a roommate? It’s criminal; the negligence is beyond comprehension. It’s one gross mistake after another piled on top of each other. It’s a nightmare — it really is — and it’s not ending.”
Seiser, a Pukalani resident, was admitted to Maui Memorial Medical Center on Feb. 29 for a urinary tract infection and six weeks later tested positive for the coronavirus. Carlson was told by a doctor that her mother, who had no underlying medical conditions, was infected by a health care worker and subsequently developed viral pneumonia, a complication of COVID-19.
Carlson blames the hospital administration for not taking proper precautions. Maui Memorial workers told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser they initially were prohibited from wearing their own personal protective gear and weren’t given proper PPE from the hospital, causing the spread of the infections.
Tracy Dallarda, a spokeswoman for Maui Health, which operates the hospital and is an affiliate of Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, said coronavirus patients must test negative twice before being cleared of the disease and that patients with the same respiratory pathogen may be housed in the same room under CDC guidelines.
Seiser likely had a false negative and was not re-infected, she said.
Maui Memorial, which has been criticized for lax infection control policies, has the largest coronavirus cluster in the state, with a total of 59 cases, including 38 staff and 21 patients.
Seiser was moved into a private isolation room in the hospital’s COVID-19 unit after initially testing positive, but some time later was placed with a roommate, Carlson said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends coronavirus patients be placed in a single-person room with a dedicated bathroom. The hospital has said it has been following CDC guidelines.
“Well obviously, they are not. I’m not a medical professional, but good common sense would tell you that is not procedurally right. It’s unethical. It’s almost immoral what they’re doing to people,” Carlson said, adding that her mother, who has since recovered from pneumonia, is now having other medical problems, including difficulty eating.
“Supposedly they have the staff, they have the beds, they have enough for many more COVID-19 patients, so why would they double up a COVID-19 person? No one can say whether it’s a false negative or reinfection, but that one variable shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
“A roommate — it’s preposterous. I don’t trust these people. It’s a sad thing to say, but this is my mother’s life. I know she’s not going to live forever, but this isn’t the way to go. I wouldn’t do this to an animal. It’s unconscionable.”