Calgary doctor calls for urgency in hospital COVID-19 outbreak reports to prevent future situations

WATCH: Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said ministry staff is working with Alberta Health Services to prepare the release of a report on the COVID-19 outbreak at Edmonton's Misericordia Community Hospital, as calls for the findings to be made public increase.

A Calgary doctor says a report into the spring COVID-19 outbreak at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton could help put a stop to “recurring” outbreaks in the province’s primary health-care facilities.

Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room doctor at Rocky View Hospital, is calling on Alberta Health to release both the clinical review and quality assurance review of the June coronavirus outbreak at the Misericordia, which resulted in 58 cases and 11 deaths, as a means of dealing with current and future outbreak situations.

“That outbreak lasted about a month, it closed down the hospital, there were 11 deaths associated with that,” Vipond said.

“And we know that somewhere in our health care system, someone’s taking a look at a root cause analysis to try and figure out what happened there — what went wrong for that to be allowed to happen. And that report has not yet been released, we know it exists.”

Vipond’s calls come just days before the one-month mark for outbreaks at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre, which, as of Friday, were linked to 91 cases in patients, staff and visitors and resulted in 11 deaths. Another outbreak was also declared earlier this month on two units at the Misericordia.

“My suspicion is there is information learnings in that can help inform prevention of future outbreaks,” Vipond said.

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The emergency room physician sent a letter to Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro asking for the report, and said he’s spoken with officials high up in Alberta Health Services, asking for the results so they could apply them to the current scenarios.

In an emailed statement, AHS said the report is not yet ready to be released, but will be shared when it’s complete.

“AHS is committed to transparently disclosing verified information about the outbreak,” AHS said. “We understand the public wants to know how and where the outbreak started, and how it may have spread.”

Global News’ requests for comment from Shandro were not returned.

Speaking to media Thursday, Foothills site medical director Dr. Peter Jamieson also said he’d like to see the results as his hospital navigates through the outbreak situation.

“I completely agree with that sentiment,” he said. “When we’re faced with a situation like this it is important that people have all the information available to them that can be provided. This is why we have been providing daily information.”

Vipond believes officials are working to weed out anything that could have negative medical or legal implications, like confidential patient information, but said the timeline is equally important, considering the severity of the pandemic and the fact that hospitals will soon also be dealing with flu cases. He also said the report could inform officials across the country, not just in Alberta.

“We do have ongoing outbreaks to hospitals,” he said.

“I would like to see this sooner than later. Six months from now isn’t good enough.”

Jamieson also acknowledged that the report likely contains details related to some situations that need to be protected in the interest of patient and staff confidentiality, but said “that doesn’t mean that we can’t — and that we shouldn’t be — sharing the lessons that have been learned from those experiences.”

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On Friday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said she agreed the findings of the reports are important, and said officials are working with AHS to determine which parts of the report can be shared.

“I do think it’s important that everyone understands the outcomes and I will say that everyone understands the outcomes and I will say that the lessons learned with respect to some of the risk factors that were identified at the Misericordia hospital have already been put into place,” she said.

“So there are certain things, such as identifying risk factors in individuals who have severe cognitive impairment or dementia, and the risks of spread in those either hospital wards or long-term care facilities in individuals who have that condition, there is a lot of work under way to incorporate some of those lessons learned.

“So yes, absolutely, those lessons do need to be shared more broadly, but we are working on solutions within the health-care system even before the public release of those reports.”

Hinshaw said the high hospitalization numbers in the province are due in large part to the outbreaks in hospitals, two more of which had outbreaks declared on Friday; the University of Alberta Hospital and Leduc County Hospital.

“As our community transmission goes up, so too does the risk of introducing the virus into our acute care and continuing care facilities, where our most vulnerable community members are,” she said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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