2 workers from Calgary hospital in isolation after visitor lies about COVID-19 status
Albertans were told to be honest about symptoms at health-care facilities by Dr. Hinshaw on Friday
Two health-care workers from the labour and delivery unit at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary are now in isolation after a visitor did not disclose their COVID-19 status during the on-site screening process, AHS has confirmed.
Dr. Fiona Mattatall, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the hospital, says she now has colleagues in isolation.
"I just hope to God, that out of this one case, that everything is OK, and that all of the PPE worked, and that we don't have to declare an outbreak on our unit," Mattatall said.
"Because I really worry about the secondary anxiety to my patients, and them worrying about coming in and having their baby."
Alberta Health Services recently has had to deal with several situations where designated family or support people of patients intentionally didn't disclose their COVID-19 symptom status, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health.
"While the vast majority of Albertans understand that doing this puts loved ones and the teams caring for their loved ones at even greater risk of illness, the few who choose to do this are impacting us all," Hinshaw said Friday during a media availability.
"Please be honest. We are dealing with a multiplier effect in Alberta. We cannot afford that in our health-care facilities."
WATCH | Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, tells Albertans to be honest about their COVID-19 symptoms when visiting health-care facilities:
Hinshaw warned Albertans not to attend health-care facilities if they are feeling sick, unless they themselves need care.
Visitors should also answer screening questions at health-care facilities honestly and fully, Hinshaw said, disclosing all symptoms and contacts to site screeners.
Should providers or members of health-care teams get sick, it would mean they are unavailable to treat patients for at least two weeks — which would impact staffing levels.
"Ultimately, if this behaviour continues, Alberta Health Services will have to consider limiting designated family and support and visitation even further," Hinshaw said. "That is not something we want AHS to have to do."
Larger implications on health-care
In an email, a spokesperson for AHS said that to protect confidentiality, no further information about the individual involved will be disclosed.
"There are no known positive patients or health-care workers on the unit and it is not on outbreak or on watch at this time," the spokesperson said.
"Unfortunately, the exposure is believed to be related to a confirmed positive case in a visitor who did not disclose their COVID-19 status during the on-site screening process."
When someone is not upfront with their symptoms, Mattatall said the first feeling health-care professionals experience is that of frustration.
"Then the reality of the snowballing implications from that one action goes from frustration to full-out anger," she said. "And it's tough, because we don't want to be angry at people. I mean, we're all in this together with the virus that we should be angry at.
"But it's frustrating when someone just isn't thinking beyond their own self to realize, because this is a team, this is teamwork that is going to get us through this."
Direct and indirect impacts
The implications of visitors not being truthful about their COVID-19 status is larger than people realize, Mattatall said.
The immediate impacts are more obvious — in delivering health care, workers enter inside an unsafe two metres with a patient, meaning those carrying the virus can put health-care workers at risk.
Without contact tracing being as robust as it was, health-care workers may be unaware they have been exposed, and could proceed to spread it to their families or their patients.
... the actions of a few people might ruin it for everybody.- Dr. Fiona Mattatall, obstetrician-gynecologist at the Rockyview Hospital
Mattatall said an indirect impact is that if a health-care worker is isolating, their team is down a member.
"Coming into the pandemic, we didn't have wiggle room in terms of extra staffing. Health-care works pretty close to the line," she said. "We don't have extra bodies at Rockyview to be able to accommodate a number of people off on isolation."
But further to that, Mattatall said the health-care system has worked hard to allow support people and partners into labour and delivery rooms during the pandemic, which she said is important for the experience and safety of having a baby.
"When we see behaviour like support people not disclosing their risk of having COVID or having COVID, it could have the ripple effect of public health then saying it's not worth the risk to the health-care teams and other patients," Mattatall said.
"I'm very grateful that we have been able to maintain support people in labour throughout the pandemic here, but the actions of a few people might ruin it for everybody."