WATCH ABOVE: Marianne Dimain looks at what the province is doing to get ready to fight Ebola.
TORONTO – The Ontario government is bolstering its Ebola preparedness plan with additional training and support for front line health care workers including designating 10 hospitals to treat potential cases.
“To our health care workers, I am grateful. Ontarians are grateful,” said Health Minister Eric Hoskins during a press conference Friday. “You have my commitment that we will continue to work hand in hand with you.”
Hoskins said he has asked the Interim Chief Medical Officer of Health to issue a directive, effective immediately, to all health care employers in the province to implement protective and preventative measures to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.
The new protocol also requires two nurses to be assigned to care for each confirmed case at all times.
Additionally, there must be a qualified and trained management personnel to supervise the safety of health care workers.
Personal protective equipment such as bio hazard suits and N95 protective respirators will also be enhanced, the province said.
Hoskins maintains the risk of the deadly virus here is “very low but it’s important that our front line workers are safe.”
WATCH: Ontario designates 10 hospitals to treat potential Ebola patients
There have been eight suspected cases of Ebola in Ontario, but all turned out to be negative.
“Ontario is ready to contain and treat any case of Ebola virus in our province and these enhanced measures will only make our preparedness stronger,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) criticized what it called a lack of a clear plan on Ebola, but the group now says the province is headed in the right direction.
“I am feeling very comfortable that we have a minister that listens. A minister that responds,” said RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun. “During SARS, we did not have that situation.”
However, Grinspun says more measures are still needed to deal with primary care workers.
WATCH: One week after the Canadian Nurses Union said its front line workers weren’t prepared to deal with Ebola, the provincial government assures Ontarians that we are ready.
“People likely may not show up at the emergency department, may show in the doctor’s office, community health centre, nurse practitioner, walk-in clinic,” Grinspun said. “They also need the right protection to react if a person shows with symptoms.”
The province says they are currently in discussions with health care professionals on a plan to deal with potential Ebola patients at facilities other than hospitals.
“We are at this point in the best position,” said Grinspun. “Could we have done it yesterday? Yes. But we are doing it today and that’s what matters to me.”
The 10 hospitals designated to treat Ebola cases are as follows:
In addition to the above mentioned measures, the ministry is also working with the province’s air ambulance service and other Emergency Medical Services providers to designate and equip vehicles to transport patients with Ebola to the designated referral hospitals for treatment.
Front line workers such as the province’s paramedics say they are beginning the process of upgrading protective equipment.
“We’re now moving to leggings, different style of gowns, different style of glove, mask and head covering that was covered off with full body protection. But in terms of working in the environment, this offers further enhanced protection,” Toronto EMS Chief Paul Raftis told reporters on Friday.
“Today we are getting those things out into operation. We have ongoing training with our supervisors and our paramedics.”
Starting on Monday October 20, 2014, the Public Health Ontario Laboratory in Toronto will have the capability to conduct Ebola testing.
Furthermore, the province will create an Advisory Table on Ebola Preparedness to address the needs of health care workers and any ongoing concerns they may have.
A provincial ministerial “Ebola Command Table” will also be assembled to provide “updates to the province’s procedures for containing and treating infectious disease.”