A healthcare professional adjusts her mask during a demonstration of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) procedures at Toronto Western Hospital on Friday October 17

A healthcare professional adjusts her mask during a demonstration of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) procedures at Toronto Western Hospital on Friday October 17

Surrey Memorial to act as Ebola centre for Lower Mainland

Hospital will be Ebola referral centre for Vancouver Coastal in addition to Fraser Health region

Surrey Memorial Hospital will be the destination for any suspected Ebola patients across the Lower Mainland, including those initially assessed at hospitals in the Vancouver Coastal health region.

SMH had already been designated the Ebola referral centre for the Fraser Health region.

But Health Minister Terry Lake said Tuesday it will also serve Vancouver Coastal, which had not yet designated a referral centre.

Other B.C. hospitals that are now designated to isolate suspect Ebola patients awaiting testing and treatment are Royal Jubilee Hospital for Vancouver Island, Kelowna General for Interior Health, University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George for the North, while children would go to B.C. Children’s Hospital.

“These sites will be the focus of training for staff on the protocols for health care workers who would be engaged with a confirmed patient or a patient under investigation,” Lake said in a statement.

Emergency room and front-line staff at all other hospitals are also being trained on procedures to isolate and handle any patient that arrives with symptoms and a travel history that could indicate Ebola.

Related story: ‘Suspect’ Ebola cases spawn hospital confusion

Patients initially identified at any hospital get further screening in an isolation room to determine if they can be ruled out as a suspect patient, otherwise they are sent to the referral hospital to await testing.

SMH is “ideal” to serve the entire Lower Mainland because its new critical care tower includes a high-acuity unit with advanced infection controls, lab and microbiology capabilities, a health ministry spokesperson said, adding the decision came after extensive discussions with public health officials and health administrators.

Lake said guidelines are also being revised for personal protective equipment for health care workers who assess or treat patients who may have Ebola.

“Staff will be fully covered, with no skin showing,” he said. “Equipment will include full body suits, long, fully impervious gowns, separate level 4 hoods, face shields, surgical masks and N95 respirator masks.”

The fit-tested N95 masks were demanded by the B.C. Nurses Union after a Fraser Health official previously said they were not necessary.

A buddy system is also mandated to ensure proper donning and doffing of protective gear.

“The risk remains very low, but our vigilance remains high,” Lake said.

A task force struck by the province is conferring frequently with various organizations and unions that represent or regulate health care workers to field questions and concerns.