Misericordia hospital adopts ‘aggressive’ protocols in bid to control COVID-19 outbreak

A growing outbreak of COVID-19 has forced the Misericordia Community Hospital to close its doors to most new patients and institute a series of “aggressive” pandemic protocols in bid to slow the spread of the virus. 

As of Monday morning, 18 patients and 14 staff at the west-Edmonton hospital have tested positive for coronavirus, Alberta Health Services and Covenant Health said in a joint statement. 

Eight new cases, including seven patients and one staff member, were identified over the weekend.

As of Friday, 11 patients and 13 staff had tested positive for COVID-19.

Two patients have died. The first death was confirmed on June 25. AHS officials became aware of the second patient death on July 4, Dr. David Zygun, Edmonton zone medical director with AHS, said Monday. The second death was a man in his 70s. 

The outbreak at the Misericordia began on June 20, Zygun said.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province is monitoring the situation closely. 

“This is an evolving situation, and it has been evolving over the last 48 hours or so,” Shandro said.

“Testing is going on to be able to do the tracing and contain the outbreak. AHS is working with Covenant [Health], and our public health officials are working with them as well, to make sure the infection prevention and control measures are in place at the Misericordia to make sure that the patients and the staff are protected.

“Obviously, I’m very concerned and have been, as this situation has been evolving over the last couple of days.”

Dr. David Zygun, Edmonton zone medical director with AHS, warned Monday that the outbreak at the Misericordia is “an evolving situation.” (David Bajer/CBC)

Patients who have tested positive are being cared for together on three units, including the hospital’s designated COVID-19 unit. In all, eight units are now included in the outbreak restrictions as a necessary precaution.

“AHS and Covenant Health officials have implemented aggressive outbreak protocols and are undertaking widespread testing and contact tracing of any potentially exposed patients and staff,” Dr. Marcia Johnson, deputy chief medical officer of health said in the statement.

“Health officials are working around the clock to prevent further spread of this virus, protect the health and well-being of patients, staff and physicians, and bring a timely and safe resolution to this outbreak.”

Hospital closed to new admissions

To reduce the risk of further transmission, AHS said the hospital is now closed to new admissions and transfers for surgical and medical patients.

The emergency department remains open. But paramedics will take patients to other Edmonton hospitals, except in emergencies where the hospital is the nearest acute care site, AHS said.

Surgical capacity will be restricted to day surgery. Overnight surgeries will be postponed or completed at another site in the Edmonton area. 

Uninterrupted patient care is still being provided in:

  • women’s health services, including labour and delivery and the NICU.
  • addictions and mental health.
  • critical care, including intensive care and cardiac care.
  • hyperbaric oxygen.
  • The Institute for Reconstructive Sciences and Medicine.

“I will warn everybody that it’s an evolving situation and we’re meeting regularly to assess the situation and the status of the outbreak, and further changes may be needed as time goes on,” Zygun said.

He said some hospital staff who have been in contact with others who have tested positive for COVID-19 are “restricted for work, so Covenant and AHS are working together to ensure that care delivery is maintained for all patients.”

But he said people should be reassured that the Misericordia remains safe.

“We do want to make everybody aware that our hospitals are safe and they should seek medical attention when they require it.”

Patients, staff being tested

Covenant Health is testing all patients on the affected units and all staff who have worked on or been present on those units, even if they are not showing symptoms. All potential contacts are being traced, AHS said.

Visitors to the affected units are being restricted at this time. Families are encouraged to meet virtually with their loved ones.

Covenant Health, which operates the acute care hospital at 16940 87th Ave., said it continues to work with provincial health officials to ensure the hospital is safe and is following protocols to minimize risk of spread, including enhanced PPE, cleaning and screening procedures.

“We are doing everything we can to contain transmission and keep patients and the public safe and healthy,” Dr. Owen Heisler, chief medical officer for Covenant Health, said in Monday’s statement.

“We are extremely grateful to our hard-working and dedicated physicians and staff, who are continuing to provide quality care to our patients in challenging circumstances.”

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