COVID-19 outbreak at St. Paul’s Hospital grows to third unit

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B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan
UBC Epidemiologist Dan Coombs weighs in on the province's age-based vaccine rollout plan. – Jan 23, 2021

A trio of outbreaks at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital have grown to include 53 cases of COVID-19, a spokesperson said Saturday.

Outbreaks have been detected on three floors, including a medicine unit (declared Jan. 22), a renal unit (declared Jan. 20) and the cardiac unit, including the cardiac care ICU (declared Jan. 10).

Twenty-four patients have tested positive, 16 in cardiac care and four in each of the other two units, a spokesperson for Providence Healthcare said. Twenty-nine cases involved staff, they said. They were unable to say how many of those cases were active as of Saturday.

The units have been closed to new patients and transfers, and access has been restricted. Staff who were exposed have been told to self-isolate, and staff working in the affected units are restricted to those units, according to a Providence Healthcare staff memo.

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Dr. Dan Kalla, department head for emergency medicine at the hospital, acknowledged the outbreaks were putting strain on the facility, but said St. Paul’s was still providing cardiac care up to and including transplants.

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“Obviously space is tight because there are closed units,” he said.

“But where necessary, where emergent, the cardiac team is continuing to offer the same level of care they always did.”

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COVID-19 hospital outbreak in Williams Lake

Patients destined for the cardiac care ICU are being diverted to other intensive care facilities inside the hospital, and some other operations and services have also been moved inside the building, he said.

“We’re doing everything we can do adapt and create the space we can, while also working with our regional partners to offload, where possible, to maintain that critical volume of space we need for the sickest and the most needy patients,” he said.

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The hospital has not yet determined how the virus got into the hospital in all cases, Kalla said, though he said it is often carried by asymptomatic patients who come in for other treatments.

Hospital staff remain required to pre-screen before their shifts, a process which includes a temperature check, a symptom check and a declaration they have not been in contact with high-risk individuals he said.

Kalla added that the emergency department at the hospital remains unaffected by the outbreak, and that people should feel confident going to St. Paul’s if they had an appointment or needed emergency care.

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