UPDATES: COVID-19 Outbreak Declared Over on Fifth Floor; Sixth Floor Outbreak Continues

December 26th, 2020

The following is an update on the status of two COVID-19 outbreaks at St. Mary’s.

Fifth floor – The outbreak of COVID-19 on the fifth floor at St. Mary’s is today declared over, following consultation with Waterloo Region Public Health.

Five patients and one staff member were impacted by the outbreak. Our thoughts are with patients and families, as well as with our staff member who is at home recovering. The floor is now open to new admissions, and visiting is limited to align with adjustment to St. Mary’s Care Partner policy. These adjustments are effective today, December 26, as part of the province-wide shutdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. They are as follows:

  • 1 visit for 1 hour every 7 days is permitted.
  • Outbreak units are not permitted any Care Partner visits.
  • Virtual and phone visits will be enhanced to help patients and their loved ones connect.

In addition, exceptions will be made for the following.

Special Circumstances

Clinical care teams may make exceptions to expand or decrease Care Partner presence under special circumstances. Essential Care Partners are those whose presence is required for the patient to communicate or to make a marked improvement in the patient’s condition.  Special circumstances may include care for patients that are:

  • under the age of 18,
  • terminally ill and near end of life,
  • require specific assistance due to a physical disability or condition of mental impairment (confused, disoriented or cognitively impaired)
  • Unable to communicate effectively with the care team, e.g., require a translator that the phone line translation service is not able to provide

Sixth Floor – A COVID-19 outbreak remains in effect on the hospital’s sixth floor. Care Partner visits are allowed only in special circumstances.

The outbreak has affected 16 patients and 10 staff. We know that COVID outbreaks are extremely stressful for everyone and we are thinking of all staff, families and patients who have been impacted. Like many hospitals in our region and province that are managing outbreaks, we are taking every step we can to reduce further spread when they occur.

All of the hard work that is required to provide care in an outbreak unit and bring it to a conclusion is much appreciated. Further information will be provided as it is available.

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December 13, 2020 – St. Mary’s General Hospital, in consultation with Waterloo Region Public Health, has today declared an outbreak of COVID-19 on its fifth floor. The outbreak currently involves two patients and one staff member. They are in our thoughts and we wish them well in their recovery.

Proactive measures were put into place on December 12 when an investigation of a potential outbreak on the fifth floor was initiated. Patient testing on the fifth floor has been completed as appropriate as part of the investigation. Testing will proceed of all staff on the unit and any interdisciplinary staff from other units who have provided care or been in patient rooms on the fifth floor and meet criteria for the exposure window.

Members of the public should not feel the need to call the hospital, but if you have concerns and wish to speak to someone, Patient Experience is available to respond to calls at 519-749-6578 ext. 6867.

Measures continuing on the fifth floor include:

  • The floor is closed to new admissions,
  • Droplet contact precautions are in effect for all patients on the entire unit
  • Care Partner visits are temporarily suspended to the seventh floor, with the exception of visits with palliative patients, and for those visits deemed essential by the unit care team to support a marked improvement in a patient’s condition. Patient Experience will assist to organize telephone and virtual visits for patients and families.
  • Enhanced cleaning of high touch and high traffic areas continues

St. Mary’s is also providing the following updates on two other units.

Sixth floor outbreak continues: Currently 13 patient and eight staff cases of COVID-19 are associated with the outbreak on the sixth floor, including one patient death. Our hearts go out to the family and all of those impacted are in our thoughts.  Until such time as the outbreak can be declared over, the following measures remain in place on the sixth floor:

  • The sixth floor Chest Unit is closed to new admissions, except for COVID-positive or COVID-resolved cases
  • Droplet contact precautions are in effect for all patients on the entire unit
  • Care Partner visits are temporarily suspended to the sixth floor with the exception of visits with palliative patients, and for those visits deemed essential by the unit care team to support a marked improvement in a patient’s condition. Patient Experience will assist to organize telephone and virtual visits for patients and families.
  • Repeat asymptomatic testing will be available to all staff on the unit.
  • Enhanced cleaning of high touch surfaces and high traffic areas continues.

 No outbreak on seventh floor: After a period of surveillance, contact tracing and testing of patients and staff on St. Mary’s seventh floor, the hospital, in close consultation with Public Health determined on December 12 that there is not an outbreak on the seventh floor. The investigation is complete. This decision is based on no additional spread on the unit. As a result, the following changes have been made:

  • The unit is reopened to new admissions.
  • Care Partner visits are restored as per hospital policy (two identified Care Partners per patient for the duration on of the patient stay and only one in the hospital and the bedside at one time.
  • Enhanced cleaning of high touch surfaces and high traffic areas continues.

“St. Mary’s staff have been working diligently to limit opportunities for COVID-19 to spread by taking precautions to protect patients and themselves,” said St. Mary’s President Lee Fairclough. “COVID-19 is a relentless virus with a long incubation period and the potential for late onset of symptoms that can extend the period and frequency of outbreaks. We are deeply concerned for the impact this has had on patients in our care and staff.  While we are pleased that there has been no further spread on our seventh floor, we will continue to heighten efforts to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission throughout the building so that we can end current outbreaks and prevent future ones,” she said.

She added that the increase in COVID activity within the hospital has the potential to impact bed capacity and St. Mary’s ability to maintain services, such as scheduled surgery and procedures. “Hospitals in Waterloo Wellington work together to manage bed capacity as much as is feasible and with COVID activity and outbreak activity increasing, this is becoming extremely challenging.”

St. Mary’s will provide further updates on the outbreaks as new information is available.

Contact: Anne Kelly, Manager, Communications
226-339-1903 or akelly@smgh.ca