5 confirmed cases of swine flu at Western State Hospital

Western State Hospital

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Four patients and one staff member inside a small ward of Western State Hospital are infected with the H1N1 flu virus.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and the Department of Social and Health Services confirmed the outbreak to the KOMO Investigators, but sources inside Western say there are issues of disclosure and safety.

H1N1, commonly called the swine flu, is responsible for multiple deaths in Western Washington in recent years.

TPCHD said the hospital notified the department on March 16, but a staffer said some workers at Western were not told.

DSHS said nurse managers and schedulers were notified, but two independent staff members inside the hospital said the notifications weren't spread around and most mainline workers were never told about the virus in the E1 ward.

DSHS said in a statement:

"The hospital continues to limit staff movement into the ward, using the same on-call staff whenever possible on that ward, and patients will stay in place. The remainder of the ward population is being given a prophylactic medical treatment for two weeks as a precaution."

Governor Jay Inslee visited Western State Hospital two days after TPCHD was told of the infection. His spokesperson said that the Governor did not enter the infected ward, but management of the hospital did not tell him about the outbreak.

The health department said Western did isolate the patients properly. DSHS said the staff member who was infected is staying home until the symptoms pass. A department spokesperson said all of the infected have been given Tamiflu and the treatment should be complete this week.

DSHS said it believes "Western State Hospital did everything right in this case...The staff at WSH deserve to be commended for their patient care."

Western State Hospital faces an April 1 deadline for improvement plans that could maintain upwards of $60 million in federal funding. The hospital came under fire for record keeping, patient and staff safety and also infection and disease control.

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