New Brunswick

Sick Filipino sailors expected to make a full recovery

Crew members from the Balsa 85, who received treatment for ciguatera poisoning at Saint John Regional Hospital are back on board and resting.

Crew members from Balsa 85 who ate tainted fish are back on board the ship and have been ordered to rest

The Balsa 85 is docked in Saint John after 14 crew members were hospitalized for food poisoning. The crew members are waiting to be flown home to the Philippines. A replacement crew is due to arrive within days. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

All 14 sailors who were hospitalized in Saint John, after eating tainted seafood on Saturday, are expected to make a full recovery, according to a chaplain who visited them in critical care.

Eric Phinney says all of the sick crew members have returned to their ship, the Balsa 85, where they've been ordered to rest.

"They figured out what it was, quite quickly," said Phinney, who identified Jackfish as the onboard meal that caused all the problems.

He said the fish contained a neurotoxin that worked its way into the food chain in warmer waters and caused symptoms that were severe and came on suddenly.

All of them were hooked up to intravenous [fluids], heart monitors and were being closely watched.- Eric Phinney, chaplain, Saint John Seafarers Mission

Phinney says it was the captain who made the decision to delay the ship's departure and send the crew to hospital, where Phinney rushed to check on them on Saturday night.

"Most of the men were quite groggy," he said.

"All of them were hooked up to intravenous [fluids], heart monitors and were being closely watched."

Phinney updated members of the Board of the Saint John Seafarers Mission on Wednesday afternoon.

The mission is part of a non-profit global tradition that was founded in England in 1856. In modern times, the mission supports workers who find themselves stranded, unpaid or at risk due to unsafe working conditions.

Eric Phinney, an Anglican minister, has met with the sick crew members of the Balsa 85. He says they have returned to their ship, where they've been ordered to rest. (CBC)
Phinney, an Anglican minister, says he works for the mission, visiting ships in Saint John's harbour and keeping an eye out for welfare issues.

"I always talk to the cook," he said.

"The cook always knows what's going on. I also talk to the bosun. The bosun is in charge of the deck crew."

"I look around the ship to see if things are clean and tidy. What's the mood of the crew? If I were to see something that was off, there are agencies and union representatives, there's people that I can call."

Beverley Sullivan, the mission manager, says her staff and volunteers also try to create a social environment that feels welcoming.

"We consider this their home away from home," she said. 

Sullivan says the mission receives more than 2,000 foreign visitors every year and many of these workers are separated from their families for weeks at a time. 

Beverley Suyllivan is the manager of the Board of the Saint John Seafarers Mission. The mission supports workers who find themselves stranded, unpaid or at risk due to unsafe working conditions. (CBC)
"I think getting them here is just a different place to be," she said.

"They are off the ship. They're with one another."

Sullivan says some of the mission's funding comes from the Port of Saint John, as well as various marine agencies and local churches. 

The International Transport Workers' Federation provided the bungalow that's used by the mission on the city's lower west side. 

The sailors who got sick did not come to visit on Wednesday afternoon. Sullivan says they're recuperating on board and waiting to be flown home to the Philippines. 

A replacement crew is due to arrive within days.

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