Calgary doctors urge transparency about COVID-19 outbreaks at hospitals

Some Calgary doctors are calling on health officials to be more transparent about recent COVID-19 outbreaks at hospitals — and publicly release investigations into those outbreaks.

There are now 83 cases and 10 deaths linked to ongoing outbreaks at the Foothills hospital

Dr. Joe Vipond, an ER physician in Calgary, says Alberta health-care workers are in the dark about what led to recent COVID-19 outbreaks at hospitals. (Alberta Health Services/Dr. Joe Vipond)

Some Calgary doctors are calling on health officials to be more transparent about recent COVID-19 outbreaks at hospitals — and publicly release investigations into those outbreaks.

Dr. Joe Vipond, an ER physician in Calgary and a co-founder of the Masks4Canada advocacy group, said he wants to know what Alberta Health Services learned from the initial outbreak at Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton.

"I'm sure that AHS has done an analysis of that event, and has some learnings from that, and I have not seen, and all the doctors in Alberta have not seen the results of that report," Vipond said.

"We should be able to learn from the mistakes that were made in that first outbreak, so that we can avoid future outbreaks. And I just don't feel like we're learning."

Vipond said he wants to know whether masking was adequate and whether ventilation was an issue at the hospital.

The outbreak at Misericordia this summer led to 11 deaths. New outbreaks at the hospital have now seen eight patients and three health-care workers test positive.

Vipond said health-care workers are in the dark, because reports that detail what caused the outbreak over the summer haven't been released.

"There must be concern that there is something in that information that they don't want to release, and then that's even more concerning," Vipond said. "I just feel like transparency in the time of a pandemic allows us to make better decisions, and it also allows for better comfort for people at the bottom, us ground-feeders, trying to do our work.

"I would be more comfortable if I knew the 'whys' of what's happening."

AHS said many factors led to the outbreak at Misericordia, and that changes have been made, including limiting movement of staff, adding more testing and screening, as well as more PPE training.

A spokesperson with AHS told CBC News that Alberta Health is responsible for the epidemiology report, and Alberta Health said that it is looking into it.

During a media availability held Thursday, Dr. David Zygun, Edmonton zone medical director with AHS, said learnings from the initial Misericordia outbreak will be crucial moving forward.

"With the increasing prevalence of COVID in the community, we do expect these outbreaks to occur," Zygun said.

"That's why the learnings from Misericordia are so important. The transmission of COVID will continue until we get that controlled in the community, so it's very important that we all do our part to reduce the transmission."

At Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, 10 people have died and 83 have tested positive for COVID-19.

A total of 311 health-care workers have had to isolate at some point during the outbreak, as of Tuesday.

With files from Jennifer Lee


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