Windsor

No 14-day isolation for some healthcare workers returning to Canada

Healthcare staff who recently returned from a trip outside of the country, but are deemed “critical” to helping patients, are allowed to work without the recommended isolation period of 14 days.

'If we don't have them, patients will suffer,' said Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj

The employees at work who recently returned from a trip outside of Canada aren't ill or showing any symptoms, the hospital tells CBC News. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Healthcare staff who recently returned from a trip outside of the country, but are deemed "critical" to helping patients, are allowed to work without the recommended isolation period of 14 days.

Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) currently has more than 300 employees who have returned from a trip outside of Canada within the last two weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, about 30 of them were at work interacting with other staff and patients, exempt from the mandatory self-quarantine period of two weeks. Those employees aren't ill or showing any symptoms, the hospital tells CBC News.

"If we don't have them, patients will suffer," said WRH CEO David Musyj. "So it's balancing that risk."

Most of those nurses and physicians deemed necessary, when they would otherwise be at home in self-isolation, work in the emergency department and critical care unit.

Windsor Regional Hospital president and CEO David Musyj said each day a risk assessment is done for employees who travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Musyj said while at work, those staff members wear protective gear and are checked for a fever at least twice a day.

"Being a border city, this impacts Windsor Regional Hospital greatly," said Musyj, who points to Americans who work at Windsor hospitals, or vice versa.

There are some people who work at healthcare facilities in both countries within the same week, he said.

Each day a risk assessment is done to evaluate each employees' circumstances and symptoms, if any, and that's balanced against the needs of the hospital.

These are the type of people who are "specially-trained" staff with a "unique skill," said Musyj.

"We're going out of our way to limit it as much as we can," he said.

If there's a surge in the number of patients, Musyj said they may allow more of those healthcare workers back to assist.

Other hospitals in the province are also grappling with the same issues. Provincial medical experts have said healthcare workers are exempt from the 14-day self-isolation period if they're critically needed to provide care to the public.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said its working closely with the hospital to ensure the safety of those employees, their colleagues and the general public.

"This is an issue that we will have to continue to re-visit and see what are the threats level and what else we can do more to protect our community and also our vulnerable in the hospitals," said medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed.

They've made suggestions to re-assign some of those healthcare works, if possible, to other areas of the hospital where the patients may not be as sick or vulnerable.

About the Author

Jason Viau is a video journalist, TV host and radio newsreader at CBC Windsor. He was born in North Bay, but has lived in Windsor for most of his life. Since graduating from St. Clair College, he's worked in print, TV and radio. Email him at jason.viau@cbc.ca

With files from Katerina Georgieva

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