St. Mary’s General Hospital Declares COVID-19 Outbreak on Fifth Floor Medicine Unit

April 23rd, 2020

Today Mary’s General Hospital has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 on its fifth floor Medicine Unit involving three patients. Two patients contracted COVID-19 after sharing a room with a patient who initially tested negative, was discharged, and on readmission was re-tested and found to have the virus.

“This is an example of one of the challenges with diagnosing COVID-19,” said Dr. Peter Potts, Chief of Staff for St. Mary’s and Grand River Hospital. “COVID-19 has a long incubation period. Hospitals have seen, in some situations, patients initially test negative and subsequently test positive. Our clinicians have been re-testing patients where there is a progression of symptoms, or in the absence of another diagnosis, and this is identifying more cases of COVID-19,” Dr. Potts said.

St. Mary’s President Lee Fairclough added that patient and staff safety continues to be St. Mary’s top priority and care continues to be safe at the hospital. “We continue to be proactive in declaring an outbreak, in collaboration with Waterloo Region Public Health, as a safety measure, and out of an abundance of caution,” she said. “Patients who need urgent and emergency care are strongly encouraged to continue to coming to the hospital. Though there is no set criteria to define a hospital outbreak of COVID-19, over 30 hospitals have declared them as a safety measure.”

St. Mary has been following provincial and public health guidance for infection prevention and control, has been enhancing cleaning, and staff in all patient care areas are now wearing eye protection. The hospital is taking further actions to contain the spread of the virus:

  • The fifth floor has been closed to routine admissions. Any additional admission will be based on clinical consultation with Infection Prevent and Control. All patients on the fifth floor unit have now been tested for the virus and results are pending. As is routine practice, tracing of staff and physicians who had contact with the three patients is being conducted by Employee Health and Wellness for follow up. Patients have been required to wear masks, and staff have been wearing Personal Protection Equipment during care of all patients at St. Mary’s during this time.
  • COVID-positive patients from the fifth floor have been moved to the sixth floor COVID unit.
  • Wherever possible St. Mary’s has been limiting the number of patients per room during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, through the outbreak period, the maximum number of patients per room in non-COVID units will be two, with patients placed in private rooms wherever possible.
  • The hospital will continue the high frequency of cleaning of washrooms and high-touch surfaces in patient rooms and throughout the hospital.
  • The hospital will reinvigorate education on the use personal protective equipment (PPE) and the importance for patients to wear masks at all times
  • Clinicians are already using judgment to determine if the receipt of a negative test warrants re-testing based on symptoms. In cases where patients have had at least two negative test results for COVID-19, and clinicians do not have another diagnosis, those patients are to remain in droplet contact isolation, and Infection Prevention and Control should be contacted for review.

If you want to know more, please see our Outbreak Q&A – Patients & Families.

Anne Kelly
Manager of Communications