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

PHOTOS: West Coast Christmas Show and Artisan Market at Tradex

Over the past 11 years the show has been attended by over 175,000 visitors

Body found after SUV found fully engulfed in flames in Abbotsford field

Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has been called in

Man stabbed in Abbotsford during altercation in restaurant parking lot

Victim taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries Friday afternoon

Pilot Sonya Sangster receives UFV Distinguished Alumni Award

Former grad flies planes and works in international development

Mission author to sign copies of her first book

Wendy Fraser will be at Totally Book-ish in the Junction Mall on Nov. 21

VIDEO: B.C. couple creates three-storey ‘doggie mansion’ for their five pups

Group of seven, who Kylee Ryan has dubbed as the ‘wandering paws,’ have a neat setup in Jade City

Paul Bissonnette joins Vancouver Warriors after tweeting he could walk on to an NLL club

Bissonnette will join the Warriors for their final week of training camp at Rogers Arena

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

B.C. First Nations drop out of court challenge, sign deals with Trans Mountain

Upper Nicola Band says deal represents a ‘significant step forward’

Most Read