As flu outbreak hits nursing home, Health P.E.I. reminds visitors to mask up
Masks still mandatory in health-care facilities
For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials have declared a flu outbreak on Prince Edward Island.
The outbreak is on the Sunrise Place Household at Prince Edward Home and though there are just a few confirmed cases, it has the CEO of Health P.E.I. pleading to Islanders to follow the rules, and wear a mask in health-care facilities.
"We're getting more and more people visiting our health-care facilities who aren't masking, and we have at least some indication in this outbreak that likely it was brought in by family members, and here we go," said Dr. Michael Gardam.
"We end up having to close that unit to new admissions, which means it might back up the hospital sending people there, which might back up the ER. So there's a lot of downstream consequences."
After nearly three years through the pandemic, Gardam said it's become clear masking helps reduce the spread of not only COVID-19, but other respiratory viruses, as well, including influenza and RSV.
While masks are no longer mandatory in other public settings, they are in all health facilities.
But Gardam said getting staff to enforce the rule is a challenge.
We ask you to mask when you come into our facilities.... I don't think it's too much to ask people.— Dr. Michael Gardam
"I mean, they're health-care workers. They're not security, they're not police. They're not first responders. These are people that are trying to do their job short-staffed and everything else. They're pretty burnt out and frazzled. The last I want is to have people staring at each other in our hallways."
So instead of upping enforcement, Gardam is counting on this outbreak to serve as a reminder to Islanders as to why masking in health facilities is so important. The outbreak has put vulnerable residents at risk, and led to visitor restrictions and limits on new admissions.
"We ask you to mask when you come into our facilities. This is why. I don't think it's too much to ask people. I realize most Islanders have moved on and they're not doing it in the community, but health care is not the community. We have different rules and will continue to have those rules."
With files from Steve Bruce