More than 30 cases of COVID-19 and one death have been linked to a growing outbreak at University Hospital, according to the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU).
The outbreak was first declared Nov. 10 on the fourth floor of the north London, Ont., hospital, which belongs to the medical network London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).
On Tuesday, the MLHU announced that it had expanded the outbreak to include all medical floors at University Hospital. Those floors include 4IP general medicine, 6IP acute/decant medicine, 9IP sub-acute medicine and 10IP palliative care/sub-acute medicine.
A total of 34 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the outbreak so far, including 16 among staff and 18 among patients.
MLHU’s medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie says the death linked to the outbreak occurred in a patient in their 70s. As for the rest of the infected people, Mackie says all of the staff are doing quite well, while there is a broad range of varying conditions for the infected patients.
“What we need to see is at least 14 days with no new cases, so it will be at least two weeks before we’re able to declare this outbreak over,” said Mackie.
Speaking to the ongoing investigation into the outbreak, Mackie says he feels good about where the MLHU is in terms of understanding what is happening.
“Like in many workplaces, what you saw is that folks who were on break were relaxing and that’s normal and expected behaviour. The problem is that as soon as you relax, whether it’s around personal protective equipment or keeping your distance, that gives the virus a chance to spread,” Mackie said.
“We’ve been able to work with hospital staff and we’re confident that that won’t be happening again.”
The medical officer of health says the risk to the public is quite low, but he adds that more cases related to earlier spread can be expected in the coming days.
“It doesn’t mean that there’s an ongoing spread of this outbreak. We hope and believe that the measures taken will stop future spread here,” Mackie said.
“I would hope that anyone in any workplace, health care or otherwise, takes this as a reminder that if you let your guard down, this pandemic virus will spread very quickly in your facility.”
LHSC chief operating officer Neil Johnson says the outbreak was expanded to all medical floors in order to better track and contain the spread of the virus.
“Our medical services at University Hospital are divided over four different wards, and the staff and patients sometimes go between those wards,” Johnson said.
A number of recommendations responding to the outbreak were announced by the MLHU on Tuesday. Johnson says the LHSC will be implementing those actions.
The recommendations include:
- Discontinuing admissions to all medical floors at University for the next seven days, with the option to reassess this decision within 48 hours.
- Testing all patients and staff on all medical floors.
- Ensuring all patients and staff are masked at all times on medical floors.
- Providing a work quarantine for appropriate staff to ensure they are not in close contact with anyone in the community.
- Ensuring that most staff working on the fourth floor of University Hospital are not working elsewhere in the building.
“We’ve been working very, very quickly on this,” Johnson said.
“We’ve had three rounds of prevalence testing, which looks at surveying all or testing all of our staff and patients to see if they have any COVID. We’ve implemented a wide variety of different measures. As an example, if you require medical care, we’re mainly admitting those patients to the Victoria Hospital.”
In the meantime, Johnson says staff are also being reminded to continue following COVID-19 health measures.
“That diligence is absolutely critically important for all of us in health care, whether it’s masking or social distancing or any of the appropriate measures, to protect ourselves, protect our families and protect the patients that we serve,” Johnson said.
A second, smaller outbreak has seen six cases linked to it so far, according to the MLHU. That outbreak is taking place on 9IP orthopaedics in University Hospital.
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