Leaked memo reveals ER nurse worked while symptomatic for COVID-19; several protocols broken at Quebec hospital

Lakeshore Hospital on Montreal's West Island is dealing with the fallout after an unvaccinated nurse worked while positive with COVID-19. Protocols were also broken, leading to "multiple exposures" over several days, according to a memo obtained by CTV News.

The memo from the Montreal West Island Health and Social Services Centre (CIUSSS-OIM) reports unvaccinated COVID-19 positive patients spent several hours in the ER waiting room and on stretchers from Aug. 20 to 26.

The memo also states an unvaccinated staff member worked “while contagious and symptomatic.”

CIUSSS public relations spokesperson Hélène Bergeron-Gamache said the nurse was undergoing COVID-19 screening three times a week, and has been removed from the unit.

"A user she has been in contact with has developed symptoms," she added. "At this time, he tested negative as did all staff and patients with whom the nurse had contact."

Several protocol breaches were noted, according to the memo, “leading to multiple exposures of varying durations in several areas of the ER.”

"Screening of [COVID-19-positive patients] indicated a delta variant," it read. "Users exposed to the emergency department and admitted to the care units were screened this morning."

One deficiency Bergeron-Gamache noted was with regards to wearing PPE. 

"Reminders to this effect were sent to all staff and COVID agents were deployed to the hospital to ensure compliance with the wearing of PPE and good infection prevention and control practices," she said. "The Public Health Unit is also on site to provide support and recommendations."

The CIUSSS-OIM said it has issued a high alert level for the hospital's ER. 

"This alert level allows us to increase infection prevention and control measures and limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 among patients and staff," said Bergeron-Gamache.

Health Minister Christian Dube was asked about Lakeshore Tuesday at a news conference.

"It's always difficult to talk about the specific cases," said Dube. "I know them very well and been there a few times. Nobody did this on purpose, but we know that there was a case where an employee was not vaccinated. We don't know what is the chain of events yet."

Dube said it is not yet known whether the staff member was contaminated by a patient or vice versa.

He said the situation shows the need for mandatory vaccinations for health-care workers.

"Not only for the patient but for themselves," said Dube. "This is, unfortunately, a case that serves as an example that our employees should be vaccinated."

Bergeron-Gamache said the vaccination rate for the CIUSSS-OIM is 89 per cent for a first dose and that 84 per cent of its staff are double-vaxxed.

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