HSC staff from 2 wards self-isolating after possible exposure

By | April 2, 2020

More than three dozen nurses from the Health Sciences Centre are self-isolating, as are doctors and other staff, after possible exposure to a patient and co-worker with COVID-19, unions say.

Manitoba Nurses Union confirmed about 40 nurses from the adult medicine unit were sent home Wednesday to self-isolate for 14 days. Patients were moved to another unit.

The nurses and some home-care staff became aware of a potential exposure March 20 after a staff member in the home care unit at HSC tested positive for COVID-19, said the MNU spokesperson. A patient in that unit has since tested positive as well.

Nurses were told to contact occupational health and safety representatives and were instructed to keep working if asymptomatic, MNU said.

The exposure extends to at least two wards at HSC, according to Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals president Bob Moroz.

At least some of those in isolation are members of the MAHCP union, Moroz said, which represents respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and more.

Moroz said he doesn’t know how many health-care workers in total are self-isolating.

Manitoba health officials have not yet confirmed this.

Moroz said a new set of guidelines have also been introduced Thursday morning regarding the use of personal protective equipment, or PPE. All staff at Manitoba hospitals who have any interaction with patients will now have access to some form of PPE, he said.

“Our members are really upset, they followed every single protocol,” he said. “The overarching message that I am getting from my members is that, what has taken so long?”

On Wednesday afternoon, chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa confirmed all staff heading into HSC and other hospitals would be screened from now on, including having their temperature taken and being asked to report symptoms and travel history.

Someone attempting to enter St. Boniface Hospital Wednesday is met by a health-care worker in a gown, mask and gloves. Staff going on shift at hospitals will be screened before they enter, as of Wednesday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The measure was put in place after the first cases of Manitoba health-care staff testing positive for COVID-19 were announced this week. 

At least four front-line staff have tested positive at three different Manitoba hospitals, including two at the Grace Hospital, one at St. Boniface Hospital and one at the Selkirk Regional Health Centre.

A spokesperson with the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority confirmed Thursday that staff at the Selkirk facility are self-isolating.

It’s unclear how many workers are affected, but appropriate staffing levels remain unaffected, said Ron Van Denakker, the CEO for the health authority.

On Wednesday, Manitoba chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin confirmed that 127 known cases of COVID-19 have been identified so far in the province. That includes one death related to the illness in the province so far.

Manitoba health officials are expected to provide more information about COVID-19 in Manitoba at 1 p.m. CT today.

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