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PPE access not a factor in Abbotsford hospital COVID-19 outbreak: Fraser Health, Dr. Henry

Last Updated May 16, 2020 at 6:33 pm PST

(File photo)

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Saturday that she is 'reassured' healthcare workers in the hospital's ICU have what they need

The Fraser Health Authority said the hospital has enough PPE, and the facility has been vigilant

Christine Sorensen, president of the BC Nurses' Union, who raised the issue said she is not entirely reassured

ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) — Access to adequate personal protective equipment is not a factor in an outbreak that has infected six healthcare workers and two patients at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, according to the province’s top doctor and the Fraser Health Authority.

After the outbreak was declared Friday, the BC Nurses’ Union said members from across the province have expressed concerns about PPE on the job.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Saturday that she has been “reassured” that healthcare workers in the hospital’s ICU have what they need to care for patients without any risk to their health.

“There has been no shortage of PPE. There is no concern with the healthcare workers in those facilities with being able to access what they need to be able to safely care for people with COVID-19 in the ICU,” Henry said.

“That’s not an issue that has been associated with this outbreak. One of the important things we have been doing around our measures to try and preserve our PPE is to ensure that those highest risk settings, like the ICUs, that are caring for people with this virus have what they need.”

The cases among healthcare workers at the hospital are a grim reminder the virus can spread easily and quickly, Henry noted.

“I really want to say this outbreak reminds us of how pernicious this virus is and how difficult it is to manage it, because we know that people can have very mild illness and may not recognize it in themselves and that can lead to opportunities for it to be transmitted widely. This reminds us that it is a very challenging virus to deal with, particularly when people are very sick.”

The Fraser Health Authority said the hospital has enough PPE, and the facility has been vigilant in ensuring anyone caring for patients is properly outfitted.

“There is no evidence of any PPE breach during patient care that has led to this outbreak. All staff were wearing appropriate PPE and taking all appropriate precautions while in care areas. We can also confirm that we are not experiencing a shortage of PPE at Abbotsford Regional Hospital,” the statement reads.

“Preliminary results of our investigation show that vigilance is required in non-patient care areas. Enhanced strategies have been implemented to reduce risks in these areas. While this is a challenging time for all of us, we would like to remind everyone to respect patient and staff privacy and confidentiality as identifying professions in specific units can easily identify those affected.”

Christine Sorensen, president of the BC Nurses’ Union said Saturday that she is not entirely reassured.

“We stand with our statement from yesterday around concerns regarding the number of cases at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and appropriate PPE in hospitals across the province. If Dr. Bonnie Henry and Fraser Health say PPE is adequate, then we question the administrative and engineering controls put in place to protect staff. The priority for everyone should be the health and safety of staff and the patients they care for and ensuring all health care workers do not get infected with COVID-19.”

The union also clarified Saturday that while there are eight cases among hospital staff, only six have been definitively linked to the outbreak.

“We are aware that the declared outbreak is limited to six 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,” reads an email.

Fraser Health said the outbreak was quickly confined to one unit.