A March 19 ProPublica article co-published by the Times-Picayune and the Advocate alleged local emergency room physician John Gavin was required to continue working at Amite’s Hood Memorial Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. C&M Emergency Physicians Group, a Louisiana based physician group, responded to the article March 20 and said the physician’s comments were “taken out of context and distorted.”
The article stated that Gavin, 69, was certain that Hood Memorial Hospital officials hadn't made any specific changes to protocols or procedures to protect nurses and doctors from procuring the disease before his coronavirus diagnosis on March 9. He also said he was unable to call in sick in the days before his diagnosis.
“I’m sure I exposed everybody I saw," Gavin said in the article.
According to C&M, Gavin did not come to work two days prior to his COVID-19 test. He experienced cold-like symptoms and tested positive for influenza on March 6, but did not test for COVID-19 until March 12. Gavin was notified of his positive result on March 15, and his last emergency department shift was March 10.
“The article erroneously implies that Dr. Gavin contracted COVID-19 at the hospital, that he continued to see patients once he was identified as infected, and that the hospital was not prepared or taking the necessary precautions,” C&M wrote in the statement.
Gavin was quoted in the article as saying the ER didn’t have gowns or N95 respirator masks designed to protect medical providers from airborne particles and liquids.
“They offered us paper face masks, that’s it," Gavin said in the article.
Gowns, N95 masks and goggles are routinely available throughout Hood Memorial Hospital, according to C&M’s statement.
C&M also reported they had been preparing and planning for COVID-19 since January, in accordance with guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and the Louisiana Department of Health. Preventative measures include screening for recent travel outside of the U.S., in addition to presence of symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Hood Memorial Hospital is a specialty care hospital serving the tri-parish areas of Tangipahoa, St. Helen and Washington. No patient or employee that Hood is monitoring has developed any symptoms of COVID-19 in the eight days since their interaction with their provider, according to the hospital’s CEO, Mike Whittington.
“The characterization of one of our Louisiana rural hospitals, specifically Hood Memorial, being ill-prepared and not following published CDC and State guidelines, is a gross distortion of facts and is unfounded,” the C&M statement read.
On March 22, the article was updated to reflect Gavin tested for coronavirus on March 12, rather than March 9.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.