Coronavirus: Ontario minister says health care workers must self-isolate after travel

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Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario Minister of Health says healthcare workers must go through 14-day isolation after travel
WATCH: Ontario’s minister of health says health care workers in the province must go into a 14-day isolation if they travel outside of the country amid the COVID-19 outbreak, clearing up previous confusion around if they were to report to work. Erica Vella reports – Mar 18, 2020

Ontario’s minister of health says front-line health care workers are being asked to self-isolate if they have recently travelled outside of Canada, an apparent change in stance after concerns were raised by some nurses.

Christine Elliott spoke with reporters on Wednesday, adding it has been a recent topic of discussion.

“We know there are many people who are concerned about that. There are many health care workers — I know there are many nurses who are concerned about that,” she said.

“We need to apply the best scientific evidence and best practice to everyone. You can’t have a separate category for health care workers. It is what it is. The isolation period is for 14 days and it needs to apply to everyone.”

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Global News obtained an internal memo from Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences that said hospitals received new directions from the chief medical officer of health, changing the restrictions for health care workers returning to work.

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“Effective March 18, all hospital staff who are asymptomatic regardless of travel history or contact with individuals who have travelled are expected to be at work and self-monitor for symptoms of any fever, respiratory, cold, or flu-like symptoms,” the memo said.

Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of Register Nurses Association of Ontario said she received several complaints from nurses from different health care centres across the province.

“I started hearing about rumblings that they want us to come to work and yesterday. We are hearing conflicting messages that some organizations are doing isolation before you come back from travel,” she said.

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“Other organizations are saying, ‘oh no, just come and if you show symptoms, you will isolate.’

“If we are saying to the saying to public that they need to self-isolate after travelling, of course health care professionals also need to self-isolate.”

On Wednesday, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said it’s a matter he and his office is reviewing.

“We are reviewing that matter and the various institutions are looking for communications out from my office to give direction on that matter,” he said.

In an online blog post, Karim Mamdani, president and CEO at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, addressed the matter in an online blog post.

“This pandemic situation is challenging us like nothing before as the world moves to contain the spread of COVID-19,” he wrote.

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Mamdani added decisions made by the Ministry of Health and Williams on the criteria for health care workers around who should either self-monitor or self-isolate have been changed based on information that was shared during a press conference.

“As an essential service in Ontario, we must find a way to continue our commitment to caring for people living with mental illness — one of our most vulnerable populations,” he said.

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“It is our duty to continue to provide quality care to our patients in the safest possible environment during this pandemic.”

On Thursday evening, an internal memo from Ontario Shores said while the health care facility is waiting on official direction from the Ministry of Health, effective 7 a.m. Thursday, staff who have travelled within 14 days will be required to self-isolate.

“Healthcare is an essential service. For patient care and operational needs, you may be called back if asymptomatic to provide essential patient care services,” the memo said.

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