Some Royal Inland Hospital staff are frightened, frustrated and exhausted amidst a COVID-19 outbreak linked to two hospital wards — and Interior Health is working to provide support.
As of Wednesday, Feb. 3, the outbreak had resulted in 91 cases (59 staff and 32 patients) and one death. There are 59 active cases. The COVID-19 cases are on the sixth floor, in 6 South and 6 North.
BC Nurses’ Union president Christine Sorensen spoke to KTW about the issue.
“It is concerning for the nurses because so many of them have been exposed and infected, many of them are waiting to find out if they will test positive for COVID and, of course, they are greatly concerned about whether they have brought this virus home to their family or out into the community,” Sorensen said.
KTW spoke to two hospital staff and agreed to source anonymity.
One nurse is among health-care workers tested for the virus due to the outbreak.
“It’s kind of part of the job, but at the same time, it’s scary,” the nurse said.
The nurse who spoke with KTW was asymptomatic and kept working, awaiting test results, later learning the test was negative. Unlike the general public — told to isolate while awaiting COVID-19 test results — asymptomatic nurses are directed to keep working with personal protective equipment until they may show symptoms or learn of a positive test result.
Karen Bloemink, Interior Health’s vice-president of pandemic response, said the directive comes from the medical health officer, noting procedures were expanded at the hospital to include asymptomatic testing as an additional precaution as a result of the outbreak.
Bloemink said lab capacity at the hospital is “very good right now” and average test turnaround time is 14 hours. Symptomatic nurses are not required to work while awaiting test results, she said.
Another hospital staff member, however, questioned the approach to have asymptomatic nurses continue working while awaiting test results and called it “frustrating.”
The staffer said they worked with someone awaiting results, who was later determined to be positive.
The BC Centre for Disease Control states the virus can be spread from a person with COVID-19 who hasn’t developed symptoms or from someone who never develops symptoms. In addition, when a Norwalk virus outbreak occurred at Royal Inland Hospital in the past, the staff member said the ward was closed and staff were not allowed to pick up shifts on other wards to reduce risk of spread.
“We are all very confused and feeling like nobody cares about our well-being,” the staff member said.
Meanwhile, Sorensen noted burnout amongst staff. The staff member said the hospital was short-staffed prior to the pandemic and workloads have increased due to isolation requirements and personal protective equipment conservation efforts.
Bloemink said staffing levels are monitored daily, augmented as needed. She said Interior Health can bring hospital staff in from other areas, but added the hospital has so far had “minimal need,” with a couple of staff members so far coming from Kelowna.
The staff member who spoke to KTW, however, said hospital staff have been redeployed to fill vacancies, noting moving departments adds stress on staff and lowers morale.
“It’s horrible,” the staff member said, citing tears amongst staff of late. “Everyone’s exhausted.”
Bloemink acknowledged feelings of fatigue amongst health-care workers and expressed gratitude, pointing out that supports are available. She said Interior Health is doing everything it can to keep both patients and staff safe during what she called “unprecedented times.”
“For Royal Inland Hospital, in particular, there has been opportunities and special sessions set up to communicate those supports and check in with staff,” she said.
Meanwhile, Bloemink said it is “crucial” for people to pay attention to public health guidance in order to minimize impact on hospitals and other health-care facilities. In addition to the hospital outbreak, Kamloops currently has two outbreaks in care homes.