Manitoba

Four HSC nurses test positive for COVID-19 after exposure that sent 100 workers home

Four nurses at Health Sciences Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 following an exposure that required roughly 100 health-care workers to be sent home to isolate for two weeks.

Nurses union upset some members asked to return to work before 14-day isolation complete

Four nurses at Health Sciences Centre have tested positive for COVID-19. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Four nurses at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 following an exposure that required roughly 100 health-care workers to be sent home to isolate for two weeks.

According to unions representing health-care workers, those sent home by the hospital on Wednesday after managers disclosed one worker and one patient were infected include:

  • 40 members of the Manitoba Nurses Union.
  • 29 therapists and other members of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals.
  • 25 health-care aides, clerks and security guards who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
  • An undisclosed number of doctors.

According to the Manitoba Nurses' Union, HSC management was aware of one exposure since March 20, but waited 12 days to send those workers home to isolate for two weeks.

The union said two days later, some nurses have been asked to return to work if they aren't showing any COVID-19 symptoms.


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"Four nurses from that unit have already tested positive. The rest do not know if they are positive or not, yet the asymptomatic ones are being asked to return to work," Darlene Jackson said Friday in a statement.

"This is obviously problematic as it is already exposed staff at risk of further exposing their patients and other staff if they return to work."

The province confirmed it may ask health-care staff to return to work if they are deemed "low risk."

The hospital is conducting risk assessments for staff who do not have symptoms and who worked in a unit where a colleague or patient has tested positive COVID-19, Manitoba Shared Health said in a statement.

"Those who did not have close contact (within six feet of a patient's head for over 10 minutes) with the individual who tested positive may be deemed a low risk of infection and asked to return to work," the spokesperson wrote.

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All hospital staff are instructed to wear personal protective equipment, including masks, gowns and gloves, chief provincial nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said.

"I think if they were not in direct contact with an infected individual and they are asymptomatic and everyone is using universal PPE, that may be the direction that we're going," she said Friday during a daily COVID-19 briefing.

Health-care workers have now tested positive for COVID-19 at Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface Hospital, Grace Hospital, the Selkirk Regional Health Centre, Actionmarguerite care home in St. Vital and Betel care home in Gimli.

Chief provincial health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said he does not know how many health-care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 to date.

Siragusa said she does not know how many health-care workers are isolating at home. That figure is believed to be more than 150 workers at all the facilities combined.

Siragusa said the health-care system is adept at adapting to staffing shortages.

"There's no doubt that having those people on isolation does challenge the system, but they're always looking for solutions," she said.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.

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