Two Toronto hospitals have declared COVID-19 outbreaks this week, as the city grapples with a growing number of cases.
An outbreak in a hospital unit means there have been at least two cases of COVID-19 in a 14-day period that could reasonably have been contracted in the hospital.
There are currently four units at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the western part of town with an epidemic state, while a fifth unit is under ‘heightened awareness’, meaning there has been a risk of exposure to the unit, Unity Health spokeswoman Robyn Cox said.
The hospital has handled a “significant number of confirmed cases of COVID-19,” Cox said. There are 7 active COVID-19 positive patients linked to the outbreaks, as well as 13 positive cases for staff.
To be on the safe side, the hospital changed its visitation policy on Saturday, allowing two visits per week from an “essential care partner,” with a few exceptions for pediatric and palliative care patients and women in labor.
The hospital said it would also conduct widespread testing on staff and patients in the coming days.
“We want to assure our community that St. Joseph’s is a safe place to receive emergency care and services,” Cox said.
“We have taken many steps to ensure this, including closing the affected units to new admissions, improving our cleaning and infection control procedures, and implementing additional safety measures for our staff, such as the compulsory use of face masks at all times in clinical spaces. “
Public health experts have made it clear that an outbreak does not mean that a hospital is overrun with COVID-19 and that it is less safe to go if it needs medical assistance.
An outbreak was also declared Thursday in two units at Toronto Western Hospital, with 5 staff members affected and three patients on Saturday.
Starting this month, the hospital has increased its housekeeping staff for daily cleaning and is testing all staff and contact tracing for COVID-19 “if applicable,” according to its website.
The hospital is part of the University Health Network, which said the steps to tackle epidemics in its health care facilities include testing all staff and patients on an affected unit, tracing contacts and a deep cleaning.