Gastrointestinal outbreak spreads in Kamloops

At Royal Inland Hospital, 20 surgeries have been rescheduled as 24 staff members and more than 30 patients are ill. Virus has also led to outbreak declarations at Hillside Psychiatric Centre, Berwick on the Park and Pine Grove Care Centre

A gastrointestinal outbreak at Royal Inland Hospital has led to surgery postponements and a halt to admitting patients to four units in the building.

As of Thursday afternoon, Interior Health said the outbreak has affected more than 30 patients and 24 staff members in the hospital and at the adjacent Hillside Psychiatric Centre.

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In accordance with an outbreak response management plan, Interior Health said the hospital is not admitting patients to 4North, 5South, 5North and 7North — the medical units experiencing the outbreak.

Patients on those wards who are waiting for admission to long-term care or assisted living facilities will not be transferred until the outbreak is over.

IH communications consultant Susan Duncan said the four units house adult patients with various medical ailments, but are not post-surgery units.

Hillside continues to admit patients, Duncan said, noting new arrivals are being taken to an unaffected pod in the centre.

On Wednesday, 13 surgeries set for Thursday at RIH were postponed. On Thursday, another seven surgeries scheduled for Friday were added to the list of procedures scrubbed.

Duncan said the decision was made as a precaution, noting the postponed surgeries encompass a mix of in-patient and day surgeries. She said the surgeries will be rescheduled according to priority.

In addition, outbreaks have been declared at two seniors’ homes: Berwick on the Park in Sahali and Pine Grove Care Centre in North Kamloops.

Duncan said the first reported symptom of the gastrointestinal outbreak was recorded on Jan. 25, noting an outbreak is declared when two or more patients are affected by the virus. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and fever.

Duncan said several specimens sent to the BC Centre for Disease Control have tested positive for the norovirus.

Duncan said the gastrointestinal outbreak is not unusual as the situation in the hospital mirrors what is happening in the community.

“We do encourage people to practise appropriate hand hygiene,” Duncan said. “Washing your hands often is key to preventing the virus from spreading.

She said each unit in the hospital is being treated individually, so the outbreak may be declared ended at staggered times. An outbreak typically lasts 96 hours, which involves two 48-hour incubation periods after the last case is reported.

Duncan said the health authority is stressing that precautions being taken may mean congestion in the emergency department. The public is advised that the wait to see a physician could be longer than normal. 

People with non-emergent illnesses should contact their family doctor or a walk-in clinic. They may also stay home and rest or consult with a health-care provider by calling Healthlink BC at 811. However, anyone who feels they need emergency care should not hesitate to come to the hospital or call 911.

Visitors are being asked to stay home if they are feeling unwell. Healthy people are permitted to visit, but may want to postpone the visit until the outbreak is over. Signage at the entrance of the affected units advises that an outbreak is ongoing so people can take proper precautions.

Interior Health said enhanced housekeeping is in place to focus on patient rooms, bathrooms, frequently touched areas and common areas. Staff members on the units with the outbreak have been advised to wear gowns, gloves and facial protection when working with patients.

As always, staff, patients and visitors are urged to wash their hands frequently.

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