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COVID outbreak at Abbotsford Regional Hospital includes 4 ICU nurses: union

Last Updated May 16, 2020 at 11:15 pm PDT

(File photo)

Four nurses in the ICU are among those who have tested positive, along with two other workers in that unit

Two healthcare workers from the emergency department have also tested positive, according to the BC Nurses' Union

The union says an outbreak at this hospital--a designated COVID treatment facility--is especially alarming

ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) — An outbreak of infections at a dedicated COVID-19-treatment facility is “extremely concerning” to the head of the BC Nurses’ Union.

Provincial Health officials reported an outbreak at Abbotsford Regional Hospital at their daily briefing Friday afternoon but did not specify the number of people affected.

Christine Sorensen, president of the BC Nurses’ Union, says four nurses in the ICU are among those who have tested positive. A respiratory therapist and one other worker have also been infected in that unit. Five other healthcare workers are awaiting test results.

“We are extremely concerned that nurses who are working in the Intensive Care Unit have been exposed and are testing positive for COVID. This raises concerns about their access to personal protective equipment and whether or not they were able to use the appropriate personal protective equipment to provide care to patients who are COVID-positive,” she says.

Friday afternoon, Fraser Health confirmed in an email that staff and patients had tested positive.

“Enhanced precautions and infection prevention and control measures have been implemented. It has been confined to one unit. To date, six staff and two patients are part of the outbreak,” said a spokesperson in an email.

Friday evening, Sorensen learned that two healthcare workers from the emergency department tested positive–she later clarified that those cases have not been linked to the outbreak.

“My concern is that there are two units now within an acute care hospital that have been infected and have members that have tested positive. That’s very concerning for us. We want to ensure that infection control practices that are happening in the hospital are at their highest level and that nurses throughout the hospital have access to the personal protective equipment that they need.”


Sorensen says infections among this many staff at a designated COVID treatment facility are alarming particularly since the union has raised concerns about working conditions–including access to PPE.

“This is a hospital that we have questioned a number of times, for a number of practices including over-capacity, safety issues at that hospital, related to violence. Nurses have been raising concerns access to personal protective equipment as well as the requirement of having to wear the same piece of personal protective equipment for the duration of the shift –all practices that we don’t support.”

Sorensen says this is not the first time nurses working in B.C. hospitals have contracted the coronavirus, but Sorensen says an outbreak in Abbotsford’s ICU is particularly alarming.

“These are all healthcare workers, these are registered nurses and other healthcare workers important to the healthcare team working at a designated COVID hospital in a designated unit,” she notes.

“This is an ICU unit where patients would be receiving high levels of care if they have tested positive for COVID.”

She says the union will be working with Fraser Health to investigate the outbreak and whether an absence of adequate PPE played a part in the spread.

“The concern over personal perspective equipment has been a concern for nurses across the province,” Sorensen explains, noting issues have included shortages of PPE as well as being made to reuse gowns and masks that are meant to be disposed of after a single-use.

“We will be investigating these concerns and seeing if any of this was a possibility in this unit.”

As far as Sorensen knows, all of the healthcare workers who have tested positive are isolating at home and have not required in-patient care.

“The nurses that we’ve spoken to are very, very distressed to find out that not only have they been exposed to COVID but that some of them are now testing positive and are having to self-isolate. Nurses go to work every day wanting to provide the best quality care that they can for their patients. They certainly don’t want to become infected with the viruses that they’re caring for in-patients. They also want to ensure that they don’t infect anyone else including their coworkers or anybody in the community,” she says.

“These are all healthcare workers who go to work every day and try to do the best for their patients and now they are victims of their own healthcare system and this virus.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that, according to a statement from the BC Nurses’ Union on Saturday, while the total number of cases among staff at the hospital is correct the number of cases linked to the outbreak is six. “These numbers are correct. We are aware that the declared outbreak is limited to 6 staff who work in the ICU at ARH. We are also aware of two additional cases that may not be connected to the outbreak, amongst staff in the ER,” the statement reads.