Four staff members of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) have tested positive for COVID-19, while other possible cases are being investigated.
Executive Chairman of the hospital, Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland, made the revelation yesterday, during a press briefing on the QEH’s COVID Response Strategy and Second Wave Plan.
She said the positive cases were an Emergency Medical Technician, who has been linked to the Boxing Day bus crawl; two nurses from Medical Intensive Care – one of whom has also been traced to the bus crawl; and a relief maid in the Housekeeping Department. The maid and one of the nurses have been linked to known community cases.
Mrs. Bynoe-Sutherland said the hospital had been conducting testing within all of the affected departments, including testing primary and secondary contacts as well as patients.
“But it is important to note that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Emergency Ambulance Service are personal protective equipment (PPE) environments; environments where people are required to wear masks, face shields, N95 masks; all of the various requirements to become essentially a low-risk setting for the contraction [of COVID-19]. And so far, no staff has tested positive as a result of these cases, and no patients have tested positive from these cases. And this is important because of the nature of our institution,” she explained, adding that other possible cases were being investigated.
“This is an environment which things happen extremely quickly. So, we are investigating in collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s contact tracing teams, cases within our Respiratory Unit, Surgical Intensive Care, Engineering Department, and Accident and Emergency room. But so far, none of these cases, with first testing, have resulted in positive results. So, we’re only able to confirm four cases of staff at the hospital linked to developments within the community,” the Executive Chairman stated.
She pointed out that during the first phase of the QEH’s response plan the objective was to keep the hospital insulated from COVID-19, which it managed to accomplish for several months. However, now that some staff members have tested positive, the hospital has set a new objective.
The goal, in the context of local transmission, Mrs. Bynoe-Sutherland said, was to prevent the QEH from becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, in an effort to protect patients and staff, and to maintain its delivery of service.
Some of the new measures the hospital is looking to implement to ensure patient safety are further restrictions on visiting, pending approval by the Emergency Operating Centre; the ambulance to move between the QEH and a new compound in Belleville, St. Michael, where a number of departments will be relocated; an in-house contact tracing team in the event of COVID-19 exposure, which will be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness; and staff and patient monitoring, tracking and reporting by the Clinical Risk Department.
Additionally, safety measures for staff will include scaled up testing; contracting external professional mental health services for staff rather than decommissioning Psychiatry Consultants from the Psychiatry Ward; expanding voluntary or self-initiated testing to staff; implementation of a ‘Staff Exposure Policy’ to guide staff on how to address exposure to COVID-19; and the implementation of a mandatory mask wearing policy for staff as well as for outpatients and ambulant patients and visitors.
As for maintaining its delivery of service, the QEH has enhanced its cleaning protocols as well as increased its housekeeping staff; established a PPE hotline to maintain adequate supplies; established crowd reducing measures such as home delivery of medicines by the hospital’s pharmacy (536-4804); and a help desk (536-4800), manned by two physicians, one EMT; and a nurse to assist with the decongestion of the Accident and Emergency Department.
Mrs. Bynoe-Sutherland encouraged members of the public to call the hospital to make appointments, rather than go in person. They may call 436-6450 extensions 6190, 6120 or 6182, to set up appointments.