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Nurses’ union raises concerns over COVID-19 outbreak at Abbotsford hospital

Click to play video 'Nurses’ union raises concerns over COVID-19 outbreak at Abbotsford Regional Hospital' Nurses’ union raises concerns over COVID-19 outbreak at Abbotsford Regional Hospital
The B.C. Nurses' Union is raising concerns about how an outbreak of COVID-19 could have happened in the intensive care unit at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. Julia Foy reports – May 16, 2020

The B.C. Nurses’ Union is raising concerns about how an outbreak of COVID-19 could have happened in the intensive care unit at Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

“That was a designated COVID-positive unit and would be working with the highest level of infection control practices and PPE (personal protective equipment),” said union president Christine Sorensen.

READ MORE: COVID-19 outbreak confirmed at Abbotsford Regional Hospital

“And yet we’ve still seen that our nurses have become infected. And so obviously something, there were some errors made.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Saturday that there was a “detailed, ongoing investigation” into the outbreak.

“This outbreak reminds us of how pernicious this virus is and how difficult it is to manage it, because we know that people can have very mild illness and not recognize it in themselves, and that can lead to opportunities for it to be transmitted widely,” she said during her Saturday briefing.

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“It’s a challenging thing to do, particularly with very ill people in the ICU, and the personal protective equipment [PPE], when we put it on, take it off, we can contaminate ourselves.”

Health officials have confirmed that four health-care workers and two patients in ICU have tested positive for the virus.

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Sorensen said four of the six workers are nurses.

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Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. reports 21 new COVID-19 cases, one new death – May 16, 2020

The first cases were detected last week, but Fraser Health says officials only linked them together and declared it an outbreak on Thursday.

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Fraser Health said Saturday that enhanced prevention and control measures were put in place prior to the outbreak being declared, and that all affected workers are at home and isolating.

Sorensen said Saturday that members had previously reported concerns of access to PPE in the hospital to the union.

READ MORE: One new death, 21 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C.

Both Fraser Health and Dr. Henry denied there was any shortage of protective equipment at the facility.

“There has been no shortage of PPE, there is no concerns with the health-care workers in those facilities being able to access what they need to be able to safely care for people with COVID in the ICU,” Henry said.