Alberta doctor calls for more restrictions, data as hospital COVID-19 outbreaks and case numbers spike

Click to play video '9 Alberta hospitals have COVID-19 outbreaks, hospitalizations concerning: Hinshaw' 9 Alberta hospitals have COVID-19 outbreaks, hospitalizations concerning: Hinshaw
WATCH: Alberta chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announces nine hospitals in province have COVID-19 outbreaks and says she’s concerned about growing hospitalization numbers. – Nov 5, 2020

The Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary and Lethbridge’s Chinook Regional Hospital are the latest acute care centres in the province to declare an outbreak of COVID-19, meaning nine of Alberta’s hospitals had outbreaks as of Thursday.

For Rockyview emergency room physician Dr. Joe Vipond, the news of an outbreak a this hospital was “sad” but “not surprising.”

“We have three out of the four major… adult hospitals in Calgary and all four hospitals in Edmonton having outbreaks, which is really concerning,” Vipond said Wednesday.

Read more: Calgary doctor calls for urgency in hospital COVID-19 outbreak reports to prevent future situations

He said the problem of recurring hospital outbreaks won’t be resolved unless health officials release more data about how the virus is spreading through the facilities.

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“The more concerning question to me is: how is it getting around? How is it getting from ward to ward when we have multiple ward outbreaks? How is it getting to the patients, to the health care workers?” Vipond said.

“There’s some failure in the system that’s allowing that to happen.”

Vipond renewed calls made last month for Alberta Health to release some of the findings from its investigation into the June COVID-19 outbreak at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton.

Read more: Alberta health officials must determine ‘largest factor’ fuelling new COVID-19 cases to slow spread: doctor

The province’s health ministry has repeatedly said it’s working on finding a way to release data in the report in a way that doesn’t compromise any sensitive information like patient names.

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On Thursday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that work was still ongoing, but said there was no timeline for when that information would be in doctors’ hands.

“It’s been promised to us and we still haven’t seen it,” he said. “So we still don’t really understand why these outbreaks are occurring.”

Increase in cases a further threat to province’s hospitals

After announcing roughly 800 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday — a technical glitch prevented Alberta Health from providing a detailed numbers update — Hinshaw said she was “very concerned about the level of hospitalizations in Edmonton and Calgary.”

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“We must protect our health system by reducing community transmission,” she said.

Read more: Union members rally outside Alberta hospitals to support health-care workers

“The fact that we are now reporting 800 new cases is extremely concerning. It is most concerning because it means that the measures that we introduced 10 days ago — which may have helped cases plateau over the last few days — are not having enough of an effect,” Hinshaw continued.

“It means that in about seven to 10 days from now, our hospital numbers will rise further, which means that care for Albertans with other issues besides COVID-19 will be impacted.”

Hinshaw said officials will be considering implementing measures that target where transmission is happening and cases are rising, if the trend continues, so the health-care system isn’t overwhelmed.

Click to play video 'Every hospital in Edmonton has a COVID-19 outbreak' Every hospital in Edmonton has a COVID-19 outbreak
Every hospital in Edmonton has a COVID-19 outbreak – Nov 2, 2020

The doctor also said the province’s current mandatory mandatory and voluntary restrictions are “weak,” and Alberta’s community case numbers need to go down.

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“We’ve seen the voluntary restrictions do not work,” he said. “We’ve seen that with masks. We’ve seen that with (the) voluntary request for people to decrease their cohorts. So now we need some strong responses.”

“We want to be Atlantic Canada. We want to be New Zealand. We want to be Australia. It’s very sad that we’re being Manitoba and we’re being the United States. We can do better than this.”

Read more: Thousands of Alberta Health Services jobs to be cut in effort to save $600M annually

Vipond said in light of Health Canada’s recognition in recent days of aerosol transmission of the virus, he’d like to see safety protocols for health-care workers updated, including whether all employees should wear N95 masks when dealing with patients.

Hinshaw said updates to employee protocols have been updated, including changing the policy around how patients with dementia are cared for — an update Hinshaw mentioned on Oct. 16 — and trying to limit the number of multi-bed rooms that are used to full capacity.

She said a list of updated health measures for medical staff will be made available as soon as possible.