Nfld. & Labrador

How did an infected hospital worker not self-isolate? CEO blames communication error

Labrador-Grenfell Health made a communication mistake that led to confusion around isolation rules for a health-care worker who entered the region from Saskatchewan and then tested positive for COVID-19, the health authority's CEO said Friday.

Contact tracing complete, says Labrador-Grenfell medical officer of health

Hundreds of people have been tested in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this week after a health-care worker from Saskatchewan tested positive for COVID-19. (Rebecca Martel/CBC)

Labrador-Grenfell Health made a communication mistake that led to confusion around isolation rules for a health-care worker who entered the region from Saskatchewan and then tested positive for COVID-19, the health authority's CEO said Friday.

The health-care worker, whose positive test result was announced Wednesday, was granted an exemption to travel to Happy Valley-Goose Bay to work at the Labrador Health Centre.

Officials have not identified the worker's profession. 

"We do have a process with regards to when we bring people in. However, in this particular case, we do want to be transparent and acknowledge that there was a communication error," Heather Brown told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

"[That] resulted in this particular health-care worker not fully understanding what was required. We are reviewing together in our organization, and we're identifying opportunities to ensure that we take lessons from this particular case and improve process to ensure that this does not happen again."

Dr. Thomas Piggott, Labrador-Grenfell Health's medical officer of health, said nearly all hospital staff have been or will be tested. 

Piggott said contact tracing related to the positive case is now complete, and called the process "fairly complicated" due to the need to test hospital staff, patients and members of the community who could have come into contact with the worker.

There have been long lineups for community testing in Happy Valley-Goose Bay since officials disclosed Wednesday that the worker had not isolated, and had travelled about the town. 

Labrador-Grenfell relies on out-of-province workers: Brown

Though Brown said she understands the concern from the public over essential health-care workers from other provinces entering the region, she said the practice is not new and helps support workers from the community.

"We do rely on supportive health-care professionals outside of our region," she said.

"That's to ensure that we have the resources that we need at all times to provide care for our population.… We also acknowledge our staff that are working really hard through the pandemic, and we need to ensure that they are supported with time away for example, for rest." 

Brown said manager "look continuously" at staffing needs.

Staff at the Labrador Health Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are being tested for COVID-19 after an essential worker who travelled from Saskatchewan tested positive for the virus. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Brown could not speak to what the exact communication error to the health-care worker was, but did say Labrador-Grenfell Health does not have a formalized process to ensure things like transportation and food are looked after for those in isolation.

People in the community who visited the Terrington Co-op and Bargain Shop on Sept. 22 and Sept. 23, respectively, have been asked to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms.

"I know that some of the local stores do deliver. We also have checked in with staff and we have lots of good news stories with regards to how we check in and care for staff, that sort of thing," Brown said.

"However, we haven't had a formalized process, and that's one of the pieces that we've identified that we absolutely need to have in place."

Brown said Labrador-Grenfell Health is working to make sure a communication error of this nature doesn't happen again, and said the province's regional health authorities continue to learn through the pandemic.

 "In the health system, we do know things can happen. We know that errors can occur. And really, we work together to identify errors — we really work to see how we can make improvements," she said.

"Learning and ensuring that we do the very best we can. But things can happen." 

Drive-thru testing resumes Friday

While lineups at the COVID-19 drive-thru test site in Happy Valley-Goose Bay meant longer waits for some people, Piggott said no one was turned away.

He said staff conducted more than 300 tests Thursday, with more expected in the coming days. The testing site opened Friday at 8:30 a.m. AT.

By comparison, Piggott said Labrador-Grenfell Health had conducted 2,100 total COVID-19 tests before Thursday. 

Heather Brown is the CEO of Labrador-Grenfell Health. (Labrador Grenfell Health)

"We have contingency plans in place to continue [performing tests]," he said. "We anticipated that for the first few days that we'd end up with quite a lot of tests.

"It was really quite the effort, but we certainly are prepared and ready."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning

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