Alberta health-care workers will be screened for COVID-19 at the start of each shift

Health-care workers across Alberta will be screened for COVID-19 at the start of every shift, starting this week.

Health authority rolls out new symptom checks across the province this week

Health-care workers perform COVID-19 tests at a drive-up testing facility. Medical workers will soon be screened for symptoms and high temperatures at the start of each shift. (Alberta Health Services/Twitter)

Health-care workers across Alberta will be screened for COVID-19 at the start of every shift, starting this week.

Doctors, nurses and any staff entering a hospital, urgent care centre, or continuing or long-term care facility will have their temperature taken and be asked to fill out a questionnaire. 

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Tuesday that anyone found to have a fever or who has symptoms will be sent home and told to self-isolate.

Alberta Medical Association president Dr. Christine Molnar welcomed the change.

"It makes sense to safeguard all health-care workers on the front lines so this seems like a sensible measure that will also protect patients in those facilities," she said.

Dr. Fiona Mattatall, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary, said she and her colleagues feel the new measure will help health-care workers police themselves, especially for minor symptoms.

"I feel very strongly we need to maintain that environment as safe as possible for patients and also other coworkers who are there," she said.

"We do watch ourselves for symptoms before we're coming in to work, but the stress of work sometimes makes you not focus on that yourself. So it's good to have that extra reminder just before you come onto the unit to work."

Protecting patients

Mattatall said within the hospital, there's a huge effort to isolate patients with COVID-19 from the rest of the patient population.

"We want to make sure that patients who are in the hospital for reasons other than coronavirus are there and can have their care without worry of exposure to risk of the virus," she said.

United Nurses of Alberta said it had an initial meeting with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Covenant Health, and said the groups will meet again tomorrow. 

"Enhanced screening of everyone, including staff, entering a health facility is very appropriate," an emailed statement from the union read.

"We expect appropriate protection (personal protective equipment) and distancing for all workers performing these duties, and appropriate distancing for everyone being screened."

AHS said it is also looking at ways to expedite the return to work for health-care workers who have been self-isolating but aren't displaying symptoms.

Those staff will need to follow a number of strict procedures, including wearing a mask at all times and staying at least two metres away from others while eating.

As of Tuesday, there were 358 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alberta, with 19 people in hospital and two deaths.

With files from Jennifer Lee


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