Health officials attempted to calm frontline nurses Wednesday, who say Ontario is ill-prepared to deal with an Ebola outbreak.
At a news conference Wednesday, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced his office will provide updated guidelines for nurses and doctors by the end of the week. Hoskins said the risk of Ebola in the province remains very low but said he is confident the province is ready to contain and treat any potential Ebola cases.
“I understand the anxiety of Ontarians over Ebola and I certainly understand the anxiety of our health-care workers,” said Hoskins, adding that the guidelines would ensure “the maximum protection possible.”
Rona Ambrose also released a statement Wednesday, saying the Public Health Agency of Canada is meeting with provinces and territories on a weekly basis. Minister Ambrose said she is encouraging provinces and territories to consider doing Ebola test runs to ensure hospitals are ready.
“We might be prepared on paper but up on the front lines I do not believe we are fully prepared,” Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association told the Toronto Star Wednesday.
Haslam-Stroud said while she believes the public health organizations are concerned about protecting the public and health care workers, nurses still have concerns about policies regarding training, patient movement, donning and doffing protective equipment and supply availability. Protocols need “fine tuning,” she said.
The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions echoed her concerns, demanding greater consistency in messaging from bureaucrats, in a recent letter to Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Gregory Taylor.
“We’re ringing the alarm bell, we need to take care of patients and we need to be well protected,” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. “This time the bureaucrats are preparing very well but the healthcare workers are not.”
The letter claimed that in at least five instances, Ontario hospitals failed the “Ebola Readiness” test when dealing with potential Ebola patients. In one instance, the patient wasn’t identified because screening procedures weren’t in place.
Eight patients in Ontario have been suspected of contracting the virus. All tested negative for Ebola.
Silas said Taylor responded to the letter and she plans to meet with him and other health care stakeholders within the next week. The meeting will address streamlining Ebola protocols across Canada and bringing frontline workers into the conversation.
At Queen’s Park, Hoskins said if an Ebola case ever does surface in Ontario, a hospital would be designated as the Ebola centre. He reiterated Ebola does not easily spread.
“This outbreak is in West Africa, there are no direct flights from West Africa to Ontario,” he said.
- With files from Robert Benzie