Infected health care workers are the source of a coronavirus outbreak in four Ontario hospitals

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A patient is brought to the emergency department of Verdun Hospital on Thursday April 2, 2020 in Montreal. The Globe and Mail asked several hospitals the number of workers with the disease, but they refused to provide the information or did not respond within the deadline.

Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press

Four Ontario hospitals have declared a coronavirus outbreak after dozens of workers tested positive for COVID-19, just as the province is preparing for the full force of the pandemic.

The hospitals are all part of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, northwest of Toronto. The disease has passed through a large swath of the region, endangering everyone from doctors to nurses to dietitians and maintenance workers, said Dr. Nicola Mercer, the area’s medical officer of health. The Guelph General Hospital was the hardest hit, with 21 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday. The epidemic started at the hospital a week ago when four workers from the same department tested positive.

A total of 33 hospital workers in the region tested positive for the disease, demonstrating how easy it is to transmit COVID-19 once it infiltrates an institution.

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“This virus is very contagious,” said Dr. Mercer in an interview. “It is easily transmitted from person to person, and measures of social distancing are often difficult to do in a health care environment.”

COVID-19 in Ontario, by public health unit

April 2, noon (ET)

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND THE MAIL, SOURCE:

GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO

COVID-19 in Ontario, by public health unit

April 2, noon (ET)

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND THE MAIL, SOURCE:

GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO

COVID-19 in Ontario, by public health unit

April 2, noon (ET)

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND THE MAIL, SOURCE: GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO

The coronavirus review so far in one of Ontario’s 34 public health units provides a glimpse of what might be in store for frontline health workers elsewhere. The Ontario government does not release statistics on the number of COVID-19 cases for each health unit.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said a total of 274 health workers in various institutions, including hospitals and long-term care homes, tested positive on Thursday. Although this represents one in 10 cases in the province, said the spokesperson, it does not necessarily mean that all workers have contracted the disease. They could have gotten sick by being in close contact with someone else with the disease.

Elliott told reporters Thursday that the government has put in place a human resources strategy to provide replacements while hospital workers are away, isolating themselves at home for 14 days.

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“We know they are doing a really tough job right now,” said Elliott. “And we want them to stay in good mental and physical health. “

Ontario hospitals span the spectrum from prestigious educational institutions to community institutions in small towns. Few people were spared from the coronavirus, based on a random sample of hospitals proactively revealing the number of patients who tested positive for COVID-19.

Hospitals under the auspices of the University Health Network in Toronto, the largest in Canada, had 18 hospital patients, nine of whom were in intensive care on Thursday. The Michael Garron Hospital in the east end of the city had eight and the Windsor Regional Hospital had 15, up from 10 the previous day.

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A total of 405 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in Ontario, said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s assistant chief medical officer of health. Of these, 167 are in intensive care.

The Globe and Mail asked several hospitals the number of workers with the disease, but they refused to provide the information or did not respond within the deadline.

In the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph area, Dr. Mercer said that the majority of COVID-19 cases involve staff rather than patients. Guelph General Hospital has two patients with the disease, compared to 21 workers. The Headwaters Health Care Center in Orangeville has nine workers and one patient, and the Homewood Health Center in Guelph, one of the largest mental health and addiction hospitals in the province, has two workers. St. Joseph’s Guelph Health Center, a complex care hospital, has an infected worker.

“What that means is that healthcare providers don’t give it to patients,” said Dr. Mercer.

Like everywhere else in Ontario, hospitals in Dr. Mercer’s region face a shortage of critical protective equipment, including face masks, to keep workers and patients safe. The shortage comes as hospitals prepare for a significant increase in the number of patients expected over the next two weeks, she said.

Doctors and nurses in the region are facing the shortage of face masks by sterilizing and reusing them instead of disposing of protective coverings after wearing them, as is normally the case. “The shortages are so great that we have to reuse certain equipment safely,” she said.

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With a report by Laura Stone

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will soon be able to give Canadians a better idea of ​​the impact COVID-19 will have on this country, but is not yet able to do so. The Canadian Press

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