Calgary

3 more units on 'outbreak watch' as Foothills hospital battles COVID-19

CBC News has learned three units at the Foothills hospital in Calgary are under an outbreak watch — in addition to the two COVID-19 outbreaks that have resulted in three deaths, dozens of cases and more than a hundred health-care workers in isolation.

Calgary woman says she's outraged she wasn't told unit was under outbreak watch when her father was admitted

As of Friday afternoon, three patients at Foothills Medical Centre in northwest Calgary had died of COVID-19 and 15 others as well as 17 health-care workers had tested positive. Another 136 health-care workers were in isolation. (CBC)

CBC News has learned three units at the Foothills hospital in Calgary are under an outbreak watch — in addition to the two COVID-19 outbreaks that have resulted in three deaths, dozens of cases and more than a hundred health-care workers in isolation.

Earlier in the week, Alberta Health Services confirmed that there were two outbreaks at Foothills — one on two cardiac units (unit 81 and 103A, the cardiac intensive care unit) and the other on a general medicine ward (unit 32) — as the hospital battled what has grown to be the largest current cluster of cases in Alberta.

As of Friday afternoon, three patients had died and 15 others had tested positive for COVID-19 as well as 17 health-care workers. The number of health-care workers in isolation had grown by 17 from the previous day, to 136.

Now CBC News has obtained an internal Alberta Health Services memo, dated last Sunday, that reveals another cardiac unit (unit 82) was on an "outbreak watch" and another general medicine unit (62) was also being closely monitored. AHS confirmed Friday, in response to CBC inquiries, that a third unit — general medicine unit 36 — is also under a watch.

AHS says patients, families, staff and physicians are made aware when a unit is on outbreak or watch.

However, Calgarian Carol Talarico says she's outraged she wasn't told of an outbreak watch when her 94-year-old father was admitted to a unit earlier in the week.

"It's unacceptable for anybody, especially a 94-year-old," said Talarico, who says she's filed a formal complaint with AHS over the matter.

"I just want people to be safe."

Talarico took her father to the Foothills ER on Monday when he became unwell. She was aware of the COVID-19 outbreaks so, when doctors wanted to admit him, she asked that he be placed on  a COVID-free ward. Talarico says she was assured that was the case.

"I found out the day we took him out that there had indeed been COVID on that ward about five days previous and that 20 staff members had been furloughed because of it," she said.

According to Talarico, a staff member told her the patient who tested positive had a slight fever and was transferred onto the COVID-19 unit and the room was cleaned.

"I was just told not to worry," she said.

It turns out that Talarico's father was admitted to unit 62, which was under an outbreak watch at the time.

Health-care workers put on protective equipment at a COVID-19 testing facility in Alberta. The COVID-19 outbreaks at Foothills hospital in Calgary are raising concerns about how hospitals around the province will be able to cope as cases mount. (Alberta Health Services)

"It's really frustrating. I feel it's deceitful. It's putting people in harm's way that don't need to be put in harm's way and I think people would be making different decisions if they knew … what was going on on some of these wards," said Talarico.

Breakdown of cases in units under outbreak watch

On Friday afternoon, in response to questions from CBC News, AHS provided the following information about the three additional units at Foothills hospital under watch status:

  • Unit 62: One positive case confirmed the morning of Sept 25 that is linked to the outbreak.
  • Unit 82: No positive cases confirmed to date.
  • Unit 36: Treatment for four patients with confirmed COVID-19 is currently being provided. There is no evidence linking these cases to the outbreaks.

"Units may be put on a watch as we trace the movement of positive patients or staff from outbreak units, if there is a probable case that requires more definitive investigation, or if there's a situation with a significant COVID case exposure," a spokesperson said in a statement emailed to CBC News.

The spokesperson said 12 staff members from unit 62 were in isolation as of late Thursday.

In all, 136 health-care workers are now quarantined due to the outbreaks and outbreak watches at Foothills hospital.

The COVID-19 outbreaks at Foothills hospital in Calgary are raising concerns about how hospitals around the province will be able to cope as cases mount.

Alberta Health Services has said it is using overtime and reassignment of staff to cover shifts at Foothills.

About the Author

Jennifer Lee

Reporter

Jennifer Lee is a CBC News reporter based in Calgary. She worked at CBC Toronto, Saskatoon and Regina, before landing in Calgary in 2002. If you have a health or human interest story to share, let her know. Jennifer.Lee@cbc.ca

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