Hospital outbreaks taking a toll on Alberta health-care workers

Concerns are growing about the number of hospitals dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta.

Every Calgary hospital except South Health Campus is battling outbreaks or has units on watch

Alberta Health Services says a gynecology ward and neurology unit at Calgary's Foothills Hospital are now under watch. (Alberta Health Services)

Concerns are growing about the number of hospitals dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta.

According to information published by Alberta Health Services, there are more than 160 COVID cases connected to active hospital outbreaks right now — and at least 20 deaths.

Dr. Leyla Asadi, an infectious disease specialist in Edmonton, says such trends are a sad inevitability when it comes to a virus that has such widespread community transmission.

"It's just such a sneaky virus, and that's why you can try your best to protect those who are vulnerable," Asadi said. 

"You can try your best to keep areas safe from it. But it just hasn't worked."

Hospitals with outbreaks or on watch

In Calgary, every hospital aside from the South Health Campus is either battling COVID outbreaks or has units on watch. Being on watch means there is evidence a confirmed case had recently interacted or stayed in the unit.

"Essentially, if there's an exposure that's concerning, you would call that a unit on watch," said Dr. Ash Sonpar, an infection prevention and control physician in Edmonton. 

"If there's a case that was acquired on the unit, then you would call that an outbreak. So as you see more community cases, you are going to have units on watch."

As of Friday, AHS said Calgary hospitals with COVID-19 outbreaks or units on watch included:

  • Foothills Medical Centre has two units on outbreak. Two units at Foothills are now under watch.
  • Peter Lougheed Centre has four units on outbreak. One unit is currently under watch.
  • Rockyview General Hospital has four units on outbreak. One unit is currently under watch.
  • Alberta Children's Hospital has one unit currently under watch.

In addition, a single site order is in place for Unit 59, a transition unit at Rockyview General Hospital, with at least 19 cases. That means staff, such as nurses, health-care aides and administration, cannot work on any other unit.

AHS said in a memo to staff that there may be ongoing transmission on the ward, but the source isn't yet known. The possibility of worker-to-worker transmission has not been ruled out.

Susan Slade, a vice-president with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said many health-care workers are exhausted, with many working double shifts when colleagues go into isolation.

"It's a scary world in health-care right now, and it's just a tragedy what's happening in the health-care system right now," Slade said. 

With files from Jennifer Lee.


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