London

New rules at LHSC to stop the COVID-19 outbreaks

Health officials in London, Ont. have introduced a series of new measures and opened new beds to try to curb an outbreak that's spread to six wards in one of southwestern Ontario's largest hospitals.

All non-urgent surgeries and procedures are cancelled at University Hospital

A message of support hangs in the windows of the emergency department at University Hospital in London, Ont. (Colin Butler/CBC)

Health officials in London, Ont. have introduced a series of new measures and have opened new beds to curb an outbreak spread to six wards in one of southwestern Ontario's largest hospitals.

The London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) said Friday that all patients entering both the University and Victoria hospital sites will now be tested for COVID-19, and only urgent procedures will be conducted at University Hospital.

That site is the source of all the outbreaks, with the virus now in the organ transplant ward, cardiovascular surgery, palliative and the orthopedics units. LHSC said Friday the initial outbreak that began more than two weeks ago on a medicine floor is resolved. 

Fifty-four staff and patients have tested positive and two people have died. The numbers climbed this week as infections spread into additional units.  

In a statement, LHSC said it's introducing the following measures:  

  • Postponing all non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries and procedures at University Hospital.
  • COVID-19 testing all patients admitted to LHSC (including University and Victoria hospitals).
  • Mandatory masks for all adult patients at both hospital sites.
  • Opening 24 beds at Victoria Hospital to make up for fewer admissions at the University site.
  • Temporarily suspending essential visitors and caregivers at University Hospital, with some exceptions.

The hospital is also introducing stricter protocols and surveillance measures for staff, who account for 28 of the positive cases. The health unit said Friday that it's traced transmission from staff to patients. 

LHSC's chief operating officer Neil Johnson said the new measures are unfortunate but necessary, particularly the decision to cancel surgeries. 

"It is a very difficult measure and it's something we don't want to do, but we've got to make some changes in our operations to really lock down this infection and preserve and protect the care that's provided at University Hospital," he said. 

"We're really hoping this is a temporary measure."

Going forward, LHSC said staff and physicians will have limited movement between units and hospitals. It's also cancelled teaching and student placements on the acute care unit at University Hospital. 

More break rooms are also being set up to ensure physical distancing. 

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