Vulnerable babies have been exposed to COVID-19 at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
A parent unknowingly brought the virus into the neonatal intensive care unit known as the Butterfly Ward, exposing 29 premature and ill newborn babies.
Two of the newborns are considered to be Tier One close contacts due to the infected parent spending several hours in the room that the two babies shared on Thursday and Friday night.
Parents and visitors will now have to undergo a rapid antigen test and return a negative result before they are permitted to enter the hospital under new extra safety precautions.
Royal Children’s Hospital CEO Bernadette McDonald said she was made aware of the virus exposure on Monday evening after the infected parent informed the hospital of their COVID-positive diagnosis.
“There were 29 babies in the unit at the time,” Ms McDonald said.
“All families of those 29 babies have been contacted and tested, and continue to be tested and checked.”
No one else at the hospital, including the babies, has tested positive so far as a result of the exposure.
Staff are not required to isolate as they were wearing full PPE at the time.
Ms McDonald said evidence showed children did not get extremely sick from COVID-19, but vulnerable patients were more at risk.
“Any exposure causes risk, especially to our vulnerable patients,” she said.
“Generally speaking, children do very well and don’t get extremely sick from COVID.”
The hospital is supporting parents to isolate in rooms with their children.
“It is challenging for parents to be isolating in the rooms with their children,” Ms McDonald said.
“We are providing as much support as we can to these families as we work through these challenging times.”
The exposure comes after the hospital’s child cancer ward was exposed to COVID-19 last week.