Coronavirus outbreak declared at Abbotsford Regional Hospital

May 16 2020, 5:00 pm

Health officials are investigating a COVID-19 outbreak that’s been declared at Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

On Saturday, BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry spoke about the outbreak, noting that it involves six staff at the hospital and two patients.

She noted that an ongoing investigation into the outbreak is being conducted by the Fraser Health Authority.

Pandemic reveals “critical need” for long-term care investments

The outbreak declaration comes at the same time that the president of the BC Nurses Union said the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed critical need for investments in long-term care.

In a statement, Christine Sorensen said it’s critical long-term care nurses, who are “specialized professionals in geriatric care and have been working through the pandemic on the front lines,” are included in the important discussion around what must happen to improve to the system.

“Lessons must be learned following the devastating outcomes we’ve seen play out in long-term care homes since the pandemic began,” she said. “We’ve seen the province take extraordinary measures over the last several weeks to mitigate the spread of the virus, but we’ve still seen a staggering loss of life and suffering.”

Sorenson said infection control measures must remain a top priority and BCNU is alarmed by the growing number of long-term care nurses who find it difficult to acquire the appropriate personal protective equipment.

“It is not acceptable that these nurses, many who are managing the significant emotional toll of losing those residents they have cared for, are also having to worry about protecting themselves from the virus,” said Sorensen. “These nurses deserve to have a voice.”

Now’s the time, she said, “to address the chronic underfunding, short staffing and heavy workloads that have impacted the eldercare sector and those who work within it for years.”

She noted that the BCNU has been calling for all levels of government to address the erosion of health support services for seniors, “long before” COVID-19.

“Most facilities around BC have failed to meet provincial government guidelines and provide a daily average of 3.36 hours of direct care per resident,” she said. “Our population is aging, with projections that show one-in-four people will be over the age of 65 in 10 years.”

As such, “acting now will not only save lives but improve conditions for long-term care nurses who are working on the front lines,” she added. “There has never been such an urgent need to look into the gaps that exist in the system.”

Provincial Health Officer responds to concerns

In response to the BCNU’s concerns, Henry said on Saturday that she has been “reassured by her colleagues there has been no shortage of PPE, no concerns with the healthcare workers in those facilities being able to access what they need to be able to safely care for people with COVID-19 in the ICU.”

She stressed that this “is not an issue that’s been associated with this outbreak, and it is one of the important things that we have been doing around our measures to try and preserve our PPE, to ensure that those highest-risk settings, like the ICUs that are caring for people with this virus have what they need.”

This outbreak, she added, “reminds us how difficult it is to manage it, be cause we know that people can have very mild illness and may not recognize it in themselves, and that can lead to opportunities for it to be transmitted widely.”

All of the measures “that we have done across as a community across BC to ensure that we don’t overwhelm our hospitals has allowed us to keep our healthcare workers safe.”

This, she said, “is a challenging thing to do, particularly with very ill people in the ICU, and the PPE, when we put it on and take it off, we can contaminate ourselves.”

What has made a huge difference, she said, is that “people are getting the care they need and surviving, and we’re not overwhelming our healthcare system so that healthcare workers are not able to take that careful, measured approach to ensuring that they’re protecting themselves with each and every encounter.”