Outbreaks of COVID-19 at five units at Foothills hospital in Calgary have sent nearly 300 staff into self-isolation, and have caused dozens of surgeries to be postponed.
A total of 60 cases are now tied to the outbreaks: 31 patients, including four who have died, 27 health-care workers, and two visitors who were in contact with patients linked to the outbreaks.
As of Tuesday, 290 staff were self-isolating, Alberta Health Services said. That’s 154 more than the previous update on Friday.
“It’s devastating, it’s scary, and it leaves our members fearful to go to work every day,” said Bobby-Joe Borodey, a vice president with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents about 3,500 workers at Foothills.
While AHS said emergency surgeries will continue, nine surgeries scheduled for Tuesday and 39 scheduled for Monday have been postponed due to reduced staff and in-patient capacity.
Enhanced visitor restrictions are in place across the hospital, limiting visitors to essential or end-of-life circumstances, and decisions on further surgery postponements will be made as needed going forward, AHS said.
Cause still under investigation
The initial cause of the outbreaks is still under investigation, and health-care workers who have been affected continue to be identified.
“Multiple teams are working daily to determine where the infection may have started, how it was transmitted and who needs to be contacted and tested to limit exposure. This is standard procedure in our contact tracing that we implement with any outbreak,” AHS said.
Foothills is Alberta’s largest hospital, and its outbreaks are currently the largest of any in the province.
Borodey said staffing shortages due to the outbreaks are leading to overtime and extra shifts.
“I can’t imagine what it must be like going into that hospital every day knowing what’s going on,” Borodey said.
“We’re very concerned, our members are reporting that they were working shortstaffed before all this happened and now it’s even worse,” said David Harrigan, with United Nurses of Alberta, which represents 1,500 registered nurses at Foothills.
Both AUPE and UNA continue to call on AHS to reinstate special paid leave for health-care workers forced to self-isolate, which was in place earlier in the pandemic.
As of Tuesday, there were 1,571 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta, with 63 patients in hospital, 13 of them in intensive care.