Ebola preparedness: Ontario hospitals ready, officials say

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. David Mowat say the risk of Ebola landing in Ontario is low, but the province is ready if it does.

Public health officials provide details on Ontario's Ebola readiness

Healthcare workers want more measures in place 2:11

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins and the province's chief medical health officer, Dr. David Mowat, say the risk of Ebola landing in Ontario is low, but the province is ready if it does.

"All in all, we are prepared and have been prepared — not just for Ebola but for any infectious disease," said Mowat.

There have been eight suspected cases of Ebola in Ontario so far, but none has turned out to be the disease.

"It is unlikely that we will have many cases of Ebola in Ontario," said Mowat, noting that there are no direct flights from West Africa to Ontario and it is not particularly easy to contract Ebola.

"An individual who is not displaying symptoms is not contagious," said Mowat.

Hoskins and Mowat said the eight suspected cases show that the province is ready, as all protocols worked well.

Is Ontario behind?

In other provinces and urban centres in the United States, there are staff, hospitals, clinics, labs and ambulances dedicated to Ebola.

Ontario has designated Toronto Western Hospital as a centre for possible Ebola cases, but said other decisions on dedicated resources would be made in "coming days" and announced by Friday.

"I have absolute confidence in the measures, procedures and policies in place," said Hoskins.

Hoskins said he understands the anxieties of the public, but that people should feel safe from the virus. He disputed any suggestion that Ontario was behind in preparations.

I have absolute confidence in the measures, procedures and policies in place.- Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins

As a result of SARS, an infectious disease that hit Ontario in the early 2000s, the province has the best protocols available, Hoskins said.

Another suggestion was to close Canadian borders to those who may have been exposed to Ebola. Both men said better solutions exist.

"It would be unfortunate if somehow we could exclude people at the border and then relax," said Mowat.

Healthcare workers 'first line of defence'

Hoskins said he is meeting with federal health minister Rona Ambrose and his fellow provincial health ministers from across Canada on Wednesday. 

A worker cleans up outside the apartment building of a hospital worker in Dallas who is infected with Ebola. Ontario health officials say the province is prepared for Ebola, but that the risk is low. (LM Otero/Associated Press)
Each week, the Public Health Agency of Canada meets with representatives from all provinces and territories to support their readiness for a potential, but "unlikely" Ebola outbreak in the country,  ​Ambrose said in a statement released Wednesday.

She said all provinces and territories have received consistent guidance and protocols for training their front-line health-care workers.

"It is imperative that all front-line health-care workers have guidance and information to deal with Ebola," Ambrose said. "They are the first line of defence against infectious diseases and they must be fully included in all communications."

The country's experience dealing with the SARS, H1N1 and H5N1 outbreaks have prepared Canada for any public health risks, she said.

Outbreak increasing in West Africa

Ebola first appeared in two simultaneous outbreaks in 1976 in rural Sudan and rural Democratic Republic of Congo. The second location was near the Ebola River, hence the virus's name.

Officials say Ebola cases will surpass 9,000 this week, with the death rate at 70 per cent for Ebola patients in West Africa.

There have been no confirmed cases in Canada, but one death in Dallas, Texas.