Calgary

Calgary man, sick with COVID-19 after Foothills hospital stay, wasn't notified about outbreak

A Calgary woman says her husband ended up sick with COVID-19 a week after being released from a Foothills hospital cardiac unit — which is now at the centre of the largest active outbreak in Alberta — and no one alerted them to the danger.

Four people have died and a total of 63 patients, visitors and staff have tested positive at Foothills

Allen Ackroyd, pictured here with his daughter, was released from a Foothills hospital cardiac ward one week before the first COVID-19 case was detected. He now has COVID-19 and his wife says they should have been notified. (submitted)

A Calgary woman says her husband ended up sick with COVID-19 a week after being released from a Foothills hospital cardiac unit — which is now at the centre of the largest active outbreak in Alberta — and no one from Alberta Health Services alerted them to the danger.

Four people have died and a total of 63 patients, visitors and staff have tested positive as the Foothills Medical Centre battles several outbreaks. Six units now have declared outbreaks, including several cardiac wards, and two others are on outbreak watch. As of Tuesday, 290 health-care workers were in isolation.

Dawn Ackroyd's husband, Allen, was admitted to Foothills hospital cardiac unit 81 on Sept. 9, for an angiogram to treat blockages in his heart, and released on Sept. 11.

He started experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms one week later (on Sept. 18 ), the same day the first COVID-19 case was identified on the Foothills hospital cardiac care units. That outbreak was declared on Sept. 19.

Allen tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 20.

"I expected somewhere along the way somebody would call us from the hospital or Alberta Health Services to say that there had been an outbreak and to be cautious but nobody has," said Ackroyd.

The situation is particularly concerning, Ackroyd said, because heart patients like her husband are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.

"In his case it's life and death," she said. "We definitely have that concern and are watching him closely."

Not all patients contacted

What Ackroyd has discovered is that the contact tracing at Foothills hospital doesn't involve connecting with every patient that has been on impacted wards .

In a news conference Monday afternoon, Foothills hospital medical director Dr. Peter Jamieson told reporters the window for contact tracing dates back to Sept. 1, to account for the incubation period of the virus.

However, AHS has confirmed not all patients who were on an outbreak wards during that time period would be contacted.

"At-risk patients who are identified through our outbreak investigation are contacted by AHS' public health team if they are no longer in hospital. Patients who have already tested positive are notified through standard contact tracing," an AHS spokesperson said in a statement emailed to CBC News.

The spokesperson further clarified that the "at-risk" patients are those "who are deemed by infection prevention and control specialists and other health professionals such as medical officers of health as potentially at risk of exposure to a confirmed positive case."

According to Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious disease physician and director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Alberta Hospital, patients are considered at risk for infection if they had face-to-face contact with a symptomatic case for 15 minutes or more.

"Certainly for the index patient, obviously anyone that was in the same room with them would be considered exposed. But if there was someone on the ward that was in a different room and there was thought to be no direct contact between those patients they wouldn't necessarily be considered to be exposed," she said.

AHS complaint

Ackroyd is so concerned she filed a complaint with AHS and is calling for all patients who are admitted to outbreak wards in the 14 days prior to the identification of cases to be alerted.

"They said they were sorry that nobody had contacted us but they were doing the best they could and they can't be sure that that's where he got it," she said.

"I wasn't really satisfied with that because he hasn't been anywhere but the hospital and home and so my guess is the numbers that they're sharing about cases from that outbreak are not accurate."

The outbreaks at the Foothills hospital continue to grow. Three more cases were identified in patients and staff on Wednesday as public health officials continued to piece together how the virus got into the hospital and put a stop to it.

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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