Ebola: B.C. ramping up protection efforts for health-care workers

B.C.'s Health Minister Terry Lake has ordered a review of protocols to deal with any possible cases of Ebola, following concerns raised by the nurses' union.

Health Minister Terry Lakes reacting to concerns raised by nurses' union that B.C. remains unprepared

Shawn D'Andrea, a doctor with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, listens to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instructor during a CDC safety training course in Anniston, Alabama. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)

B.C.'s health minister has ordered a review of protocols to deal with any possible cases of Ebola, following concerns raised by the nurses' union.

“Late last week, I heard from the head of the B.C. Nurses’ Union Gayle Duteil who expressed concerns related to nurse training and awareness of this illness," minister Terry Lake said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

“As a result of the concerns expressed to myself and the ministry, I’ve asked the provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, to take a close look at the protocols that are in place and to work with public health officials to confirm that hospitals have the equipment and training to recognize and treat patients with possible Ebola, while protecting their health care staff."

Kendall will work with a wide range of clinical experts, including physicians, infection control experts, nurses, B.C. Ambulance staff and laboratory experts to co-ordinate the response throughout the province, said Lake.

"The first priority of the health authorities will be to ensure that health care workers are confident in and competent with the personal protective equipment available, so that if they have to use it, they can do so safely and with confidence."

Lake said previous experience with other viral outbreaks has prepared B.C.

“Our front line response has been forged by our experiences in managing the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. Through these experiences we developed protocols that are used to identify, isolate and treat any suspected infectious disease, like Ebola."

Nurses raised Ebola concerns

The news comes after the B.C. Nurses' union publicly released a letter on Tuesday to provincial health authorities accusing them of not being ready to handle cases of the deadly virus.

"Your health authority is not ready to respond to cases of Ebola," said the letter by the BCNU Council.

"On paper things may look good, however we have been canvassing our members on designated units, who advise on the ground that is simply not the case.

"For example, nurses have not been trained in care protocols for Ebola patients or advised and trained regarding the proper use of safety equipment.

"This is alarming given the recent news of a nurse who has become infected with the virus after caring for the first Ebola patient in North America."

2nd health care infection in Texas

Since the letter was written yesterday, a second health care worker in Dallas who cared for an infected patient has tested positive for the disease.

It remains unclear how the second health care worker contracted the virus, and authorities declined to say what position she holds at the hospital or the type of care she provided.

On Tuesday Kendall said B.C.'s infection control guidelines are appropriate, but the infections in Texas are triggering efforts at B.C. hospitals to reassess infection control practices.
 
"Across the country we're going to be putting more efforts into making quite sure that the front line health care workers, who are the ones who will be seeing those patients, not necessarily the ones who won't, but the ones who will, are confident and competent.

"We know we will have those procedures in place so that when they do see a patient they will feel more confident than maybe they're feeling now."
    
Kendall says three people suspected of having the Ebola virus in B.C. have tested negative.



 

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