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Q and A with medical director of Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital about COVID-19 outbreak

Misericordia Hospital medical director speaks about COVID-19 outbreak
WATCH ABOVE: The Misericordia Hospital has shut its doors to incoming patients as it works to stop the spread of COVD-19. Five patient deaths are linked to the outbreak. Julia Wong had a chance to chat with the hospital's medical director. Here is some of that conversation.

The Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton is the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in an acute care setting in Alberta.

No new cases were reported in staff or patients on Friday. In total, there have been five deaths linked to the outbreak, 16 other patients have been infected as well as 16 staff.

The hospital continues to remain under full facility outbreak due to COVID-19, and an outbreak investigation task force involving Alberta Health Services, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and Covenant Health has been put into place.

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital on ‘full facility outbreak’ due to COVID-19

On Friday, Global News spoke with Dr. Robert Black, the hospital’s medical director. The interview has been condensed for clarity and length.

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GLOBAL NEWS: What’s the mood like inside the Misericorida Hospital right now?

DR. ROBERT BLACK: It’s different. The previous hustle and bustle of a normal acute care facility has really been replaced, but I would say with total commitment and dedication by all of our staff in adapting to what I’ll call the COVID[-19] environment – masking, distancing and hygiene, the different flow of patients and the lack of flow of patients to a large degree because of the restrictions within the site.

GN: What level of concern are you hearing from patients or staff inside the hospital?

RB: I’ve spoken to many [staff], including physicians. I know they have their personal and their family concerns behind them when they go to work everyday. And despite that, they continue to really show their true professionalism and their commitment to care, even though they do express those concerns.

GN: Things are still evolving but when you look at this outbreak, what types of things could have been done to try and prevent the spread of it? Could there have been more PPE use, more mask use?

RB: I think, to be honest, we’re too early in the determination of that. I think that when we look at what we need to do that it’s critically important that we do a review of learnings. In fact, this is already in place. I think the importance of this is not just for our site, it’s for learnings and opportunities to see what we have done well and opportunities of what perhaps we haven’t done as well.

GN: Early in the outbreak, one patient was moved to a different unit, which caused the virus to spread to a second unit. Why wasn’t the patient isolated before he or she was introduced into the second unit?

RB: The issue is the number of patients and the difficulty as these patients were asymptomatic. But in saying that, there’s different ways in which the virus does spread. When there was movement of staff across units – and again, this will be all part of what they’re going to look at when they go through the process of the investigation of it… but as soon as that occurred, the patient was moved to our COVID[-19] unit.
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GN: How do you calm fears from patients who are in the hospital right now who are concerned or are worried that this outbreak may move into their particular unit?

RB: It is showing that we’re doing everything that we need to do with regards to appropriate precautions — PPE, our cohorting of our staff, our cohorting of our physicians, discussing the full facility outbreak component, talking about the establishment of the COVID[-19] units and all of the other processes we’ve put in place to ensure that we actually do have a safe environment for our patient care.

GN: The public has been told to expect outbreaks as people move around more and as the province reopens more. Obviously it’s a concern when you see it inside a hospital. How do you bring back public confidence when this outbreak is under control?

RB: I think the restoration of the public’s safety and feeling of safety within institutions will take time. It’s something we’re going to have to earn. I think this is where you get into our reviews of the process, our transparency with regards to the findings of the process.

GN: What lessons have been learned the past few weeks and what do you think other hospitals will be able to take away from the experience at the Misericordia?

RB: We’re challenged because we’re still in the middle of this — what we think is the middle — [and] we’re not really sure where we are, but that’s where we think we are… [The] work that we’re doing is really where we’re focused. Our front-line staff are just working so incredibly hard to help us do the work and contain it.
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Watch below: Some recent Global News videos about Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital and the COVID-19 crisis.

For up-to-date stories on the outbreak at the Misericordia Hospital, click here.