B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall.

B.C. hospitals ‘not ready’ for Ebola, nurses warn

Dr. Perry Kendall says province will review protocols, step up infection-control training for staff

B.C.’s nurses are “legitimately scared” about Ebola but haven’t been adequately trained to safely treat patients and avoid risking themselves or spreading the deadly virus to the broader population, according to their union president.

B.C. Nurses Union president Gayle Duteil detailed her concerns Tuesday in a letter to regional health authorities after three suspected Ebola cases turned up in Lower Mainland hospitals but were ultimately ruled out.

Duteil said Fraser Health and other health regions are “not ready” to respond to the arrival of an Ebola case.

A union survey found nurses in units designated to isolate and treat Ebola patients haven’t yet been sufficiently trained in using protective gear to avoid infection.

Duteil is calling for immediate action to plug gaps in Ebola response planning, along with detailed simulations for front line staff.

“This cannot wait until there is another suspected case in an ER within the province,” she said. “If the health system wants our members to put themselves at risk of exposure to a deadly disease we expect that every reasonable precaution be put in place on a priority basis.”

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall acknowledged more must be done and said he will co-chair a committee to review protocols and coordinate efforts by the health authorities.

“Our first priority will be on establishing the processes to familiarize or refamiliarize health care workers with personal protective equipment so if they have to use it they can use it safely and confidently,” Kendall told reporters.

He said health authorities may disagree with the BCNU assessment that they are unprepared.

But Kendall said the handling of each of the three recent suspect cases – two of which were hospitalized in Surrey and Vancouver before being ruled out – turned up some issues in need of improvement. He described those cases as low to medium risk.

North American anxiety about the disease outbreak that has killed thousands in West Africa soared after a patient arrived in Texas with the virus and later died.

A nurse there subsequently tested positive for the virus although it’s unclear how she was exposed.

“Given the concern over the breakdown of infection control we heard from Texas It is really appropriate for us to double up on that and make sure people who are going to be on the front lines are confident and competent and comfortable putting the equipment on and particularly in taking it off,” Kendall said.

The risk from Ebola to the general public in B.C. is “vanishingly small, if not zero,” he added.

Kendall praised the past bravery of health care workers in dealing with outbreaks such as SARS and pointed to HIV as a precedent where fear of exposure at times threatened to hinder treatment.

Unlike airborne viruses, Ebola can only be caught through direct contact with bodily fluids of a patient who has symptoms.

Fraser Health’s head of infection control previously predicted the region would successfully isolate and contain any Ebola patient arriving in the region at its designated hospital – Surrey Memorial.

Vancouver Coastal Health Authority hasn’t identified a primary hospital to take suspect cases, instead expecting all sites to be ready.

Although suspect patients in B.C. to date have turned out not to have Ebola, public health officials expect health workers here will be confronted with the real thing.

More suspect cases are also likely since about 40 people a month arrive here from West Africa and some are likely to display flu-like symptoms – two factors that trigger isolation pending further assessment.

The BCNU letter warns the union has advised members to only care for suspected Ebola patients if they’ve been provided proper equipment and training.

It also urges improved procedures on cleaning and handling garbage, protocols on handling the deceased and asks what contingency plans will be in place when ERs are already full.

Just Posted

Search continues near Ashcroft for missing Prince George woman

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

U-Save property owner files six lawsuits against District of Hope

One of the lawsuits demands $6,200 to undo the work done on the roundhouse.

Rainfall warning issued across Lower Mainland into the weekend

50 to 70 mm of rain expected to fall starting overnight Friday and into Sunday morning

Husband pleads guilty in relation to 2009 killing of Kulwinder Gill

Abbotsford woman died in hit-and-run conspiracy

Raymond Lee Caissie gets life in prison for murdering Surrey teen in 2014

Judge numbers Caissie among ‘violent merciless men without a conscience’

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

Justin Timberlake invited back to Super Bowl halftime show

A ‘wardrobe malfunction’ with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy during his last appearance

A scary box office weekend for everyone but Tyler Perry

‘Boo 2! A Madea Halloween’ scared up a healthy $21.7 million in its first weekend in theatres

Even as long-form census data returns, Statcan readies for day without it

Wednesday’s release is expected to show immigrants making up a larger share of the population

WATCH: 10,000 signatures gained to stop ‘no pets’ rental policy

Pets OK BC said about 1,700 animals were surrendered to the BC SPCA last year due to housing issues

Silver Creek reacts after remains found, man arrested

Neighbours of property where remains were found say man arrested was sweet and polite

VIDEO: Oprah Winfrey and a celebrities attend ‘B.C. Miracle Concert’

Fundraiser featured Foster, Steven Tyler, The Tenors, Matteo Bocelli, Laura Bretan, Carly Rae Jepsen

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Most Read