Coronavirus outbreak at Montreal General Hospital puts dozens of staff in quarantine

Montreal General Hospital dealing with COVID-19 outbreak
WATCH: The 15th floor of the Montreal General Hospital has been closed as officials deal with an outbreak of COVID-19 on the ward. As Global's Dan Spector explains, both patients and staff have become ill.

The Montreal General Hospital is experiencing an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. A total of six people in the internal medicine ward located on the hospital’s 15th floor have tested positive for the virus.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), which operates the hospital, confirmed that two patients and four staff members on the floor have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

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The two patients who have tested positive have been placed into isolation, and the MUHC says it is currently tracing the close contacts of all six confirmed cases.

Already, “approximately 30” MUHC staff members have been placed into preventive quarantine, the statement says.

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Patients who could have been exposed to the six confirmed cases have also been placed into isolation and are being monitored for symptoms.

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New admissions to the floor have been halted “until further notice,” according to the statement. The MUHC has notified Quebec public health authorities.

The McGill University Health Centre Employees Union, however, denounced the lack of protective equipment for hospital workers in an online post on Wednesday.

“The human resources department tells us that they are going to investigate whether some people may have reported symptoms because they are afraid of being infected at work in order to stay at home. Being afraid of being infected at work when your employer can’t really guarantee that you will have access to adequate protective equipment is just… normal,” the post reads.

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Dr. Mitch Shulman, who regularly works in the emergency room at the Montreal General, says he wishes there was a better supply of masks and other equipment.

“It’s a real problem for all of us. I’m given my single mask, my single face shield, a single N95 mask for a whole shift. Certainly you would like more to be available and more easily available,” he said.

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“We’ve heard it’s available, it has to be somewhere in the system, but it hasn’t made it down to us yet.”

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Shulman said though staff being sent into quarantine would increase the load on others, the hospital’s reaction made sense.

“They’ve done the logical thing, shutting down the floor, open up occasional beds elsewhere and the staff not in quarantine from the floor can now continue to do their job, so you don’t lose as many beds as you might otherwise,” he explained.

— With files from Global’s Dan Spector