British Columbia

Bacteria discovery has left island hospital relying on bottled water since March

Island Health advised against using the water at Lady Minto Hospital for drinking or bathing in March, when routine testing showed low levels of the bacteria were present. 

Bacteria at Salt Spring Island's Lady Minto Hospital should be eradicated by mid-July: Island Health

Island Health has installed a copper and silver ionization system at Lady Minto Hospital that should eradicate the legionella bacteria in the water system by mid-July. (Radio-Canada)

Patients and staff at Salt Spring Island's sole hospital are still relying on bottled water, months after legionella bacteria was detected in the facility's water system.

Island Health advised against using the water at Lady Minto Hospital for drinking or bathing in March, when routine testing showed low levels of the bacteria were present. 

Most healthy people don't get sick from the bacteria, but there is a risk of developing legionnaires' disease if someone breathes in droplets of contaminated water.

The illness can lead to pneumonia in people at higher risk of getting sick, such as the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

The bacteria levels found were very low, but given the clientele in a health care facility, "safer is better than sorry," said Kelly Yerema, Island Health technical service manager for Lady Minto.

The bacteria likely developed in old water trapped in "dead legs" of the hospital's water system, Yerema said, referring to old pipes that are still connected to the system but are no longer used after renovations and upgrades.

Cleaning it up

Yerema said a copper and silver ionization system was installed in May and he expects it to have fully eradicated the bacteria by mid-July.

"I expect by the end of the week we will see relief for the residents and their families," he predicted.

The ionization system attacks organisms in the water and Yerema said bacteria levels have dropped significantly in the past six weeks. 

A final report on the water quality is expected by Friday. A multidisciplinary team, including microbiologists and health officials, will then determine when Lady Minto's water supply is safe.

No residents or staff were made ill by the contaminated water.

Symptoms of legionnaires' disease include fever, fatigue, diarrhea, stomach pain and shortness of breath. Anyone who is at a higher risk and develops pneumonia-like symptoms should see a doctor.

With files from All Points West

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