Ottawa

Taps turned off at TOH's General campus after legionella bacteria detected

The Ottawa Hospital has temporarily turned off the water in certain units at its General campus after confirming a case legionellosis in one of its patients.

One person has been diagnosed with legionellosis

The Ottawa Hospital says it's working with public health and environmental experts after legionella bacteria was found in the water at the General campus. (CBC)

The Ottawa Hospital has temporarily turned off the water in certain units at its General campus after confirming a case of legionellosis.

As a precautionary measure, water service was suspended the morning of Sept. 21 after a patient was diagnosed with legionellosis — the broad term for a number of diseases, including legionnaire's disease, caused by the water-borne legionella bacteria.

Service was suspended Monday on floors four through eight as the water system at the campus underwent a "hyperchlorination process," the hospital said.

It's expected service will be restored by the end of the week.

"We are working with care teams to ensure alternative water sources are available during this time, to minimize the impact on patient care," wrote Michaela Schrieter, a member of the hospital's media relations team, in an email.

All patients have been tested, the hospital said, and there are no other positive cases.

People can get infected with legionella by inhaling water droplets from a contaminated water supply. Legionnaires' disease, a severe form of pneumonia, is one of the possible diseases it can lead to.

"For people with healthy immune systems the risk is low, but for those that have a suppressed immune system there is a greater risk of infection. To be safe, we turned off the water on the unit immediately while the issue is being addressed," Schreiter wrote.

'It makes it very difficult'

Rachel Muir, a nurse at The Ottawa Hospital and bargaining unit president with the Ontario Nurses' Association, said staff have been provided sanitary wipes and bottles of water for patients. 

"It makes it very difficult. I mean, it really does," said Muir. 

"You don't realize just how much you use water until you don't have it, from things like just washing your hands to showering and mouth care. ... So it's very inconvenient, at best, but it sort of is what it is at the moment."

Muir said nurses are adapting and doing their best.

"[Patients] will be clean. They will be well fed. They will have access to safe drinking water, safe ice, and they will be able to at least freshen up," she said.

Officials with the hospital are working with public health and environmental experts to solve the issue and "turn the water back on as soon as possible," Schreiter said.

"Safety is our top priority, and we will continue to update patients and families to ensure they have all the information they need," she wrote.

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