The first COVID-19 hospital outbreak on Vancouver Island was reported on Wednesday and since then, no new COVID-19 cases have been recorded.
Last night, Island Health issued a bulletin that five staff members who work at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19.
The staff members, who work on the hospital’s transitional unit, are now in quarantine and the hospital is working to ensure the outbreak doesn’t spread further.
The unit is filled with mainly elderly patients.
“We take immediate steps to keep patients and staff safe. Those include closing down the unit so that the unit doesn’t accept patients from elsewhere and doesn’t send patients off to other units,” said Dr. Ben Williams, Island Health’s Vice-President of Medicine and Quality and Chief Medical Executive.
Island Health says it tested 34 patients along with 25 staff and physicians. So far, all tests are negative. But that doesn’t mean the virus hasn’t spread.
“A negative test one day doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a negative test the next day so it’s reassuring but we know that the incubation period for COVID-19 can be up to two weeks,” said Dr. Williams.
The daughter of an 86-year-old patient who was in the unit says the outbreak is terrifying news.
“A little panicked to be honest. I mean she’s elderly. She’s one of those people that is in that highly susceptible age group that could potentially not come out on the other side of this very well,” said Nicki MacKenzie, who hasn’t been able to visit her mother in the hospital because of covid-19 restrictions.
MacKenzie questions how the virus could have spread among the staff.
“They’re supposed to be setting the example. Like it’s one thing to have a patient come down with it because a visitor came in or maybe you know food service but to actually have the caretakers, the nurses, the doctors, whatever to come down with it. What weren’t they doing?”
Island Health has also asked staff in the transitions unit that also work in long term care homes to stop until further notice.
The BC Nurses’ Union says while nurses can’t work in two different long term care homes, they can work in an acute care hospital and long term care.
“The biggest concern I have about single site orders particularly if they’re applied to acute care is we will not have enough nursing staff to help us through this covid pandemic,” said Christine Sorensen, president of the BC Nurses’ Union.
Island Health says it doesn’t believe those are connected to the hospital outbreak.