Allegheny County

Nurse claims 25 % of staff at her specialist clinic has tested positive for COVID-19

PITTSBURGH — It’s been more than two weeks since the first local case of coronavirus was confirmed, but one nurse says the lives of patients and co-workers were risked by staying open.

Since Channel 11 first talked to this nurse last week, she said 25% of the staff at her specialist office has tested positive for COVID-19.

RELATED: ‘If one person gets sick, we’re all going down’: UPMC workers concerned about safety during COVID-19

“It's like this impending doom,” she said.

The nurse who sees patients for skin disorders in the North Hills, says this was preventable.

“We were all equally on the same page -- very upset about putting our patients in danger,” the nurse told Channel 11.

As we reported last week, workers reached out to us concerned that UPMC kept some of their specialist offices open after Gov. Wolf and the health department urged all non-essential appointments and elective procedures to stop.

Now, 25% of this nurse’s office has tested positive for coronavirus and another 25% of employees are waiting for their results.

“Until it’s here is when you’re going to open your eyes and say we need to do something?” the nurse said. “What were were told by our manager is ‘We all signed up for this – this is health care.’”

The nurses in the office say they were easily seeing 40 to 50 patients a day for weeks. They don’t even know how all of the patients are going to be notified.

UPMC said the hospital chain is doing its best in unprecedented times, addressing concerns from employees and constantly adapting. That includes an historic number of telemedicine visits.

“Patients who are hesitant to come in person can do a video visit with their PCP or specialist,” said Dr. Donald Yealy, chair of emergency medicine at UPMC.

Have questions about the spread of the coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

In two days, the hospital giant said it did as many telemedicine visits as it did in all of 2019, allowing critical resources to be preserved for those most in need.

“The video visit allows us to be more protected with equipment when COVID-19-infected patients need care at the hospitals,” Yealy said.

But some employees like the nurse we talked to argue it’s too little too late. She’s a single mom, who says she has also developed symptoms and will be tested herself.

“I am just disappointed – my son didn't need to be exposed like this,” the nurse said.

The nurse said her colleagues who tested positive have a wide range of symptoms. One has just a fever and cough, another has pneumonia and the third has only GI symptoms.