Co-op Refinery Complex has adequate measures to prevent spread of COVID-19, health authority says

The temporary work camps at the Co-op Refinery Complex are adequate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to a letter issued by a Saskatchewan Health Authority manager.

Regina Coun. Andrew Stevens pleased SHA took request seriously, released findings to council

An SHA letter says the conditions at the Co-op Refinery's temporary worker camp are adequate to deal with COVID-19, after the City of Regina requested an investigation into conditions there last month. (Aldo Columpsi/CBC)

The temporary work camps at the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina are adequate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to a letter issued by a Saskatchewan Health Authority manager.

A report on camp conditions was called for by the City of Regina last month, as regulations concerning gathering sizes started to come into effect as a result of COVID-19. 

Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens shared a letter about the report on his Facebook page last week. In the post he said he was glad that council had requested the report. 

"They took council's motion seriously, they investigated and they found the Co-op Refinery's COVID and pandemic protocols adequate," Stevens said in an interview. 

"I was pleased, actually. I think it's in the best interest of both the public as well as workers, and the refinery itself, that the inspection took place."

Ian Harrison, an environmental public health manager with SHA, said he felt the measures taken at the work camp are adequate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 there. 

"The employees are housed in large trailers with individual rooms and washrooms," Harrison's letter said, adding only replacement workers were allowed into the camp area.

Additional measures taken include:

  • Non-essential workers are working from home.
  • Two nurses are working on site during the day and an on-site paramedic is there after hours.
  • A physician is present each Wednesday.
  • Staff and visitors are participating in a COVID-19 screening process.
  • Staff who have returned from travel outside of Canada, or in areas with high COVID-19 rates, are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Staff in self-isolation are contacted by nursing staff every one or two days.
  • Employees are given cards that outline social distancing and key contact information.

Harrison's letter said personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer is available for use on site. Fitness areas have been closed. Water fountains have been taken out of service. 

The letter said buses used to transport staff that normally seat 50 people are transporting 15 people at a time.

A letter about the inspector's visit, published by the Co-op Refinery Complex, said the SHA provided some recommendations, which will be implemented.

Stevens said he was pleased that the SHA and Occupational Health and Safety made the recommendations and that they told council they'd be following up to ensure those protocols are in place.

"It is believed our current utilization of the camp provides us with the safest options for executing our overall response to the pandemic," the complex's letter said.

Sick staff to be taken to local hotel

Plans are in place to transport sick staff to the DoubleTree hotel in Regina in the event they fall ill. The letter said inspectors are following up with the hotel to review its procedures.

"No staff have yet been sent to the hotel, although they do have a few staff with colds and other non-COVID symptoms," the letter said.

Stevens said he was surprised that workers would end up at the hotel. He said that decision speaks to things being cobbled together.

"This is one of the big dilemmas and problems with having a replacement worker camp to begin with, is you're dealing with likely hundreds of people who are not from the city," Stevens said. 

"You have to find a place for them on a normal day, never mind in the midst of a pandemic."

He said the decision to use a hotel as a temporary shelter for sick employees is a bit puzzling, but he was pleased the SHA was able to identify it and that they would follow up to ensure protocols were in place there.

A van, which will be sanitized after each use, is on standby and ready to take ill workers to the hotel if needed.

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