British Columbia | Health Minister’s update on Ebola preparedness

Health Minister Terry Lake issued the following update on the health-care system’s preparation for the low likelihood of a case of Ebola in B.C.:

“On Oct. 16, 2014, senior staff and I met with the CEOs of B.C.’s health authorities to discuss British Columbia’s Ebola preparedness. I also met with Gayle Duteil, president of the BCNU, who raised concerns about the state of our readiness.

“We want to reassure British Columbians that health authorities have response plans in place if a suspected Ebola case does present, and that those plans are being refined and updated based on the latest information and reviews from Europe and the United States.

“The Ministry of Health has set up an Ebola preparedness task force, co-chaired by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and associate deputy minister Lynn Stevenson, which will co-ordinate information and best practices across the regional health authorities. The task force is meeting regularly and will address, as a priority, equipment needs, training needs and preparedness, as well as update clinical information on how best to provide treatment and follow up in the unlikely event that a person is diagnosed with Ebola.

“The task force is reviewing the training in the health authorities to ensure it is being applied consistently across the province and based on the current national guidelines. As well, the task force is asking health authorities to prioritize training for health-care workers who would be engaged with a patient.

“We are continuing to talk with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on their protocols and the most effective measures to protect health-care workers and the public. Over the weekend PHAC is reviewing equipment standards and will be making recommendations early next week. Once they make their recommendations, B.C. will review and update our protocols as needed. Health authorities have been reviewing and updating their inventory and availability of personal protective equipment, including the availability of N95 protective respirators for cases that may require them.

“In addition, the task force is looking at designating a single referral hospital to treat possible cases of Ebola in the Lower Mainland as well as the other referral hospitals in the regional health authorities that have not already designated a site. We will provide an update early next week.

“We also welcome the assistance offered by the federal government and the support it would provide in a B.C.-led response to an unlikely occurrence of a case of Ebola in B.C.

“Our experiences with the SARS outbreak in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009 have shown that British Columbians can be confident of our preparedness and a vigilant response in the low likelihood that a case of Ebola materializes in B.C. Again, I want to thank all the front line health-care workers that are continuing their hard work to protect the public from the spread of all infectious diseases.

“It is worth reiterating that while the cases of transmission to health-care workers in Dallas are concerning to us, we can learn from those experiences and we will follow the findings from that investigation to help inform any updates to our plan.

“The risk remains very low. But British Columbians can be assured that hospitals, health authorities and the Ministry of Health are doing everything possible to be prepared to respond to a case of Ebola in B.C.”

British Columbia | Province supporting Federal government response to potential marine incident off Haida Gwaii coast

The ministries of Justice and Environment this afternoon issued the following update on the Province’s efforts to support the federal government’s response to a potential marine incident off the western coast of Haida Gwaii.

“Late last night, the Canadian Coast Guard was notified that a general cargo vessel, the Simushir, had lost engine power 12 nautical miles NorthWest of Gowgaia Bay, off Moresby Island. Once alerted of the ship being adrift, Emergency Management BC (EMBC) activated its emergency protocols to connect all partners involved and ensure a coordinated response.

“Specifically, EMBC is engaged with its federal counterparts at the Canadian Armed Forces, and the Canadian Coast Guard to ensure a co-ordinated response. EMBC is co-ordinating calls with all partners at regular intervals throughout the day to make sure that B.C. is providing all supports possible to help with the federal government’s lead efforts. These will continue until the incident is resolved.

“A B.C. Incident Management Team has been activated, which includes Emergency Environmental Response Officers (EEROs) and other technical specialists. The Province is also contacting its partners in the BC Pacific States Oil Spill Task Force both to notify them of the risk and to ask them to provide mutual aid as needed based on the outcome of efforts to restore power to the vessel.”

Alberta | Rapid Transfer Units – Initiative to improve patient flow, keep ambulances on road

Alberta Health Services (AHS) today announced a local pilot project that will see the creation of Rapid Transfer Units and increased capacity at two emergency departments.

The pilot project will also change how Emergency Medical Services (EMS) crews transfer patients to emergency department staff. The changes are intended to improve patient flow at emergency departments, reduce the amount of time EMS crews spend in emergency departments, and ensure ambulances are available to respond to calls.

“We need our EMS crews out in their communities responding to emergency 911 calls,” says Vickie Kaminski, AHS President and CEO. “The new system will help get paramedics and other EMS providers back on the road soon after they bring their patients to emergency departments.”

“These changes, along with the recently announced additional continuing care beds, will help improve overall access to care in our emergency rooms and help ensure our resources are used where they are needed most,” says Health Minister Stephen Mandel.

The pilot project is being implemented at the University of Alberta Hospital and the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Results will be evaluated with the goal of implementing across the province, including rural and regional sites.

The new Rapid Transfer Units will be opened at both sites in the next six weeks. Each unit will include eight to 15 beds. The two pilot sites will also add dedicated EMS stretcher capacity as well as additional clinical staff within six weeks.

To gain efficiencies at other Edmonton and Calgary hospitals, EMS crews are continuing to consolidate care of patients being brought into emergency departments. When appropriate and safe, one EMS crew will take charge of two to three patients. This prevents multiple EMS crews from each tending to a single patient, and allows more ambulances to return to the road.

Rapid Transfer Units are also expected to improve patient flow at the two pilot sites.

Patients who need to be admitted to hospital, are awaiting an inter-facility transfer, or who have been medically cleared to leave hospital but are awaiting discharge, can be moved to a vacant bed on the Rapid Transfer Unit.

The pilot projects will cost approximately $2.1 million and will be covered by AHS’ existing budget.

Alberta | Calgary Fire Department issues provincial cancer research challenge

The Calgary Fire Department (CFD) has teamed up with Alberta’s largest research study to save even more lives, and has challenged all other Alberta emergency service providers to do the same.

“The Calgary Fire Department is committed to serving and saving the lives of Albertans,” says Executive Officer and Deputy Chief Brad Lorne. “When this opportunity arose to have a huge impact on the lives of future generations, we were happy to participate.”

The CFD is partnering with Alberta’s Tomorrow Project, a research initiative of Alberta Health Services, CancerControl, which seeks to find out more about the causes of cancer and other long term diseases. Alberta’s Tomorrow project wants to enroll 50,000 Albertans, aged 35 to 69, who have never had cancer, to take part in the research study. So far, more than 47,000 participants from towns and cities across Alberta have taken part.

“The Tomorrow Project collects information and samples before diseases occur,” says Alberta’s Tomorrow Project Scientific Director Dr. Paula Robson. “Researchers will be able to analyze these in the future to explore differences in people who go on to develop disease versus those who do not. In the short term, we can support different kinds of studies.”

To drum up even more participants, Lorne has issued a provincial challenge to all of Alberta’s emergency service providers to get involved in the study and surpass CFD’s participation rate.

“I strongly encourage other fire departments and emergency service providers across Alberta to show their support of this incredibly important research project,” says Lorne. “Saving lives is what we do every day, and with an investment of just two hours, we can continue to serve our communities far beyond our lifetimes.”

For information and to join the study, visit www.in4tomorrow.ca or call toll-free 1-877-919-9292 .

Partners for the Tomorrow Project include AHS, Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions, Alberta Cancer Foundation and, at the national level, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. The Tomorrow Project could not occur without the generous support of our partners. The Tomorrow Project is part of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project, which is made up of five regional health studies across Canada.

Manitoba | Health Minister’s statement on ongoing Ebola preparedness efforts

STATEMENT FROM HEALTH MINISTER ERIN SELBY ON MANITOBA’S ONGOING EFFORTS, PREPARATION REGARDING THE EBOLA VIRUS

I know Manitobans are nervous.  People are nervous here, right across the country and across the globe.  We have been advised by the Public Health Agency of Canada that an overall risk in Canada of the Ebola virus is extremely low; however, we need to stay vigilant.

This morning I had a phone call with public health officials and chief executive officers all of the regional health authorities throughout the province.  I reinforced my personal commitment the RHAs have Manitoba Health’s full support.  I wanted to hear their concerns and those of their front-line staff.  We know there are front-line staff who may be involved in direct care and others who are not expected to participate in the response at that level.  But we are hearing, that regardless of the role that staff are expected to play, they need to be fully informed of the planning and protocols.  I also wanted to know what we can further do to support them.

We have been and will continue to work with our regional health authorities and health providers to make sure everyone has the equipment and training they need to be safe and care for those who are sick. I reiterated to the RHAs that if anyone doesn’t feel they are getting the right supports or information, I encourage them to speak up.  We want to hear from them and help them to feel ready.

I have also directed the RHAs to designate one person from every region to be the point person that front-line staff can go to with their concerns or questions.

Yesterday, I spoke with Sandi Mowat from the Manitoba Nurses Union and heard her concerns.  I committed to help to find additional ways to help nurses get the information they need to help patients.  Other unions will begin a series of meetings next week with RHAs to facilitate information sharing.

I am in daily contact with the chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Michael Routledge and he and his team are keeping me apprised on Ebola virus preparations and protocols in Manitoba.  In addition, Dr. Routledge and his provincial counterparts from across Canada have weekly conference calls to discuss preparation in the provinces and assessment of the Ebola virus situation throughout the world.

Everyone is working hard to prepare as the global situation evolves and I would like to thank all of our front-line workers for their commitment, dedication and selflessness they show every day.  Together we will we remain vigilant.

Ontario | Taking additional measures to protect the public and healthcare workers from Ebola

Ontario is taking action to enhance the province’s readiness to contain and treat any potential case of Ebola in the province. These measures will further protect the safety of all Ontarians, including health care workers.  

The new measures include:

  • Asking Ontario’s Interim Chief Medical Officer of Health to issue a directive to hospitals and other acute care settings about new personal protective equipment and training requirements as well as enhanced procedures for containing and treating Ebola.
  • Designating Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Hamilton Health Sciences, Health Sciences North, Hospital for Sick Children, Kingston General Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, The Ottawa Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital, Sunnybrook Hospital, and University Health Network’s Toronto Western Hospital as the referral hospitals to treat confirmed cases of Ebola.
  • Enhancing the province’s inventory and availability of personal protective equipment, including ensuring the availability of N95 protective respirators.
  • Testing Ebola specimens at Public Health Ontario’s provincial labs starting on Monday October 20, 2014.
  • Creating a formal Minister’s Advisory Table on Ebola Preparedness which will include frontline workers and health care providers, and which will meet regularly to provide ongoing advice to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.
  • Creating an Ebola Command Table which will be chaired by the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and which will include the Interim Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Deputy Minister, Public Health Ontario, the Ministry of Labour and other partner ministries and representatives from the province’s LHINs and designated referral hospitals, among others.
  • Assigning appropriately outfitted ambulances to transport potential cases of Ebola to the designated hospitals for treatment.

These measures were developed with guidance from specialists in workplace health and safety in a health care setting.

The province continues to work closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada and our provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure Canada’s preparedness.

Ontario’s experience and lessons learned from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic resulted in our health care facilities developing sophisticated infection control systems and procedures to protect health care providers, patients and all Ontarians. This included creating Public Health Ontario to provide scientific and technical support for infection prevention and control, disease surveillance, epidemiology and emergency preparedness.

Quick Facts

  • A total of ten Ontario patients have been tested for possible Ebola infection, and all of these patients have tested negative. There are no confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease in Ontario.
  • The current Ebola outbreak, which began in West Africa in March 2014, is unprecedented with growing international concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Ebola a public health emergency of international concern on August 8, 2014.
  • The former Chief Medical Officer of Health notified the health system to the risk posed by Ebola in West Africa in the spring. Guidance for health care workers was posted on Public Health Ontario’s website on April 9, 2014 and continues to be updated and strengthened on a regular basis.
  • Memos from the Interim Chief Medical Officer of Health have been issued to the health system to alert health workers and health sector employers to the latest guidance on appropriate occupational health and safety, infection prevention and control measures, and laboratory testing protocols.

New Brunswick | Province launches seasonal flu campaign

The seasonal influenza vaccine is now available in the province.

“Vaccination is recognized as the single most effective way of reducing the impact of seasonal influenza, especially for those at risk of complications,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, acting chief medical officer of health. “I urge all New Brunswickers, especially vulnerable populations, to protect themselves and be immunized.”

Each year strains of seasonal influenza viruses change. As a result, the flu vaccine needs to change to ensure it protects against the current viruses.

Seasonal influenza poses serious health risks to the elderly, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems or other chronic health conditions. The Department of Health provides publicly-funded influenza vaccine for individuals at high risk of influenza. This year’s seasonal influenza vaccine is available free of charge to the following groups by many different immunization providers through a variety of programs:

  • Adults and children with chronic health conditions:

o   cardiac or pulmonary disorders (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma);

o   diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases;

o   cancer, immune compromising conditions (due to underlying disease and/or therapy);

o   renal disease;

o   anemia or hemoglobinopathy;

o   conditions that compromise the management of respiratory secretions and are associated with an increased risk of aspiration;

o   morbid obesity (body mass index of greater than 40);

o   children and adolescents with conditions treated for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid.

  • people of any age who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities;
  • people older than 65;
  • healthy children six months to 18 years of age;
  • pregnant women;
  • aboriginal people;
  • people capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk:household contacts (adults and children) of individuals at high risk of influenza-related complications (whether or not the individual at high risk has been immunized), as listed above;

o   household contacts of infants younger than six months;

o   household contacts of children 6 months to 59 months;

o   members of a household expecting a newborn during the influenza season;

o   health-care workers.All healthy persons aged 19 to 64 years are also encouraged to receive the flu vaccine, except those individuals who have shown an adverse reaction to the vaccine in the past or whose medical history suggests they might experience an adverse reaction.

“The flu is often seen as a minor illness but it should not be underestimated,” said Russell. “Seasonal influenza can be very serious for at-risk populations and there are flu-related hospitalizations and deaths every flu season. The best way to protect yourself and loved ones is through immunization.”

During the 2013-14 influenza season there were more than 1,400 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza. There were 269 influenza-related hospitalizations for the same period with 53 of those patients admitted to intensive care units. Fifteen New Brunswickers died due to illness associated with influenza.

Newfoundland and Labrador | Minister of Health provides update on Ebola preparedness

The Honourable Steve Kent, Minister of Health and Community Services, provided an update today on the ongoing work, planning and preparedness activities being undertaken by the Provincial Government and regional health authorities in the event that an Ebola case appears in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I want to emphasize for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that while the risk of a case of Ebola or subsequent widespread infection in this province is low, we are quickly moving forward with planning to ensure that our health system is ready to respond. This work includes ensuring proper protocols are in place, holding tabletop and mock exercises, ensuring personal protective equipment is ready and accessible in hospitals, and training our health care workers on how to use this equipment. While the response to Ebola will continue to evolve, I have great confidence in the strong infection control systems and procedures in place in our hospitals designed to provide the best care possible for patients, limit the spread of infection, and protect the public and health care workers.”
– The Honourable Steve Kent, Minister of Health and Community Services

The four regional health authorities are ramping up their training for health care providers starting this weekend. This includes hands-on training on how to use the necessary protective equipment such as impervious outerwear, N95 masks, face visors, and long gloves or double gloves depending on the medical procedure.

“The Ebola virus does not spread easily from person to person. Ebola is spread by touching the body fluids, including blood, vomit or diarrhea, of a person sick with the disease or someone who has died from it. Our province has previous experience preparing for communicable diseases like SARS and pandemic influenza, which helps us in our response to public health risks or outbreaks. The Department of Health and Community Services will continue to work closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada to monitor any recommended changes to personal protective equipment and we will make adjustments as necessary.”
– Dr. Faith Stratton, Chief Medical Officer of Health

Individuals who have recently visited a West African country where there are Ebola outbreaks, and are feeling ill, are advised to call the Newfoundland and Labrador HealthLine 24-hours a day at 1-888-709-2929 before presenting to a physician’s office or emergency department.

QUICK FACTS

  • The Provincial Government is moving forward with planning and training activities to prepare for an Ebola case in the province.
  • The risk of an Ebola case or widespread infection in this province is low and the disease is not spread easily from person to person.
  • The regional health authorities are ramping up training for health care providers to ensure they are prepared to use the necessary protective gear if required.
  • Health care provider preparation includes hands-on training on how to use the necessary protective equipment such as impervious outerwear, N95 masks, face visors, and long gloves or double gloves depending on the medical procedure.
  • Individuals who have recently visited a West African country where there are Ebola outbreaks, and are feeling ill, are advised to call the Newfoundland and Labrador HealthLine at 1-888-709-2929 before presenting to a physician’s office or emergency department.

Newfoundland and Labrador | Provincial govt working with community partners to prepare for Hurricane Gonzalo

Fire and Emergency Services-Newfoundland and Labrador (FES-NL) is monitoring Hurricane Gonzalo. The recent forecast information from the Canadian Hurricane Centre advises of the potential for heavy rainfall, strong winds and large waves beginning Saturday evening and continuing into Sunday.

“The Provincial Government is actively engaged in preparations for potential weather impacts, and emergency responders are ready to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of all residents. Fire and Emergency Services-Newfoundland and Labrador will continue to communicate with its emergency management partners and communities throughout the province. I would encourage individuals to take measures to ensure their own safety and the safety of their neighbours and families.”
- The Honourable Judy Manning, Minister of Justice and Public Safety and Minister Responsible for Fire and Emergency Services-Newfoundland and Labrador

The highest rainfall amounts are forecasted for the eastern half of the island portion of the province and could be in the range of 50 to 75 millimetres by Sunday, October 19. On its current track, north to northwest winds associated with Hurricane Gonzalo could reach gusts up to 70 to 80 kilometres per hour. Municipalities and residents in coastal areas along the south coast, Burin Peninsula and southern Avalon Peninsula are advised to exercise caution and should prepare for large waves of four to six metres, pounding surf or potential storm surges at high tide.

Municipalities and local service districts are encouraged to prepare for the forecasted adverse weather conditions and ensure their emergency plans are readily available and can be activated if required. ‎Councils are encouraged to have emergency contact information available and to continue to monitor weather forecasts throughout the storm. Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs regional office staff are available to assist Fire and Emergency Services in their efforts.

“I would encourage all municipalities and local service districts to make preparations for Gonzalo, and ensure that their staff remain vigilant throughout the weekend. In addition, residents are asked to adhere to warnings and recommendations from both Environment Canada and their council or Local Service District committee. Officials from our regional offices will be at the ready to assist where required to provide advice and guidance to community leaders and staff.”
- The Honourable Keith Hutchings, Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs‎

FES-NL is actively monitoring this weather system and working with emergency management partners. Many local governments have an emergency management plan in place. Individuals and communities are advised to prepare for flooding, power outages, downed power lines and other potential impacts.

Further information and tips regarding preparedness can be found below and at www.gov.nl.ca.

Municipalities and Local Service Districts
Local governments should revisit their emergency management plans and ensure first responders are informed of possible adverse weather. Public works crews should make every effort to remove debris from culverts, drains, streams and underneath bridges to allow for the free flow of water and to prevent unnecessary flooding.

Residents
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should keep emergency preparedness top of mind. A few simple steps now, as outlined below, may prevent personal harm if a serious incident were to occur:

  • Ensure sump pumps are in working order;
  • Keep all household drains free from debris;
  • If you become aware of flooding on streets or observe areas where culverts are blocked, contact municipal officials to advise them of the situation as soon as possible;
  • Watch for weather warnings and advisories;
  • Follow local weather forecasts – weather.gc.ca/warnings/index_e.html?prov=nl ;
  • Prepare and maintain a 72 hour emergency kit – www.getprepared.ca ;
  • Develop an emergency plan, remembering the specific requirements of pets or any person in your household with a medical condition, mobility issues, or other special needs – www.gov.nl.ca/fes/emo/preparedness.html;
  • Be aware of all local emergency numbers;
  • Familiarize yourself with your insurance policy; and
  • For information about insurance coverage please visit the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) website: www.ibc.ca/en/Natural_Disasters/Protect_Yourself_from_Climate_Change/Are_you_covered.asp

South Carolina | Public Health Order issued to create a statewide Health Preparedness Network

The South Carolina Board of Health and Environmental Control today issued a Public Health Order (PHO) to create a statewide Health Preparedness Network (HPN), which will provide for essential email communications to a central database of key individuals and facilities who are on the front lines of South Carolina’s preparedness capabilities when dealing with potentially serious health threats like the Ebola virus.

Ebola is a highly infectious and deadly virus with a high mortality rate. As of this date, there are several confirmed cases in the United States, and more than one hundred individuals in quarantine who are subject to daily monitoring following exposure to infected individuals.

As explained in the Order, the creation of the HPN is intended to enhance the state’s existing ability to maintain open and active communications with essential individuals and facilities, to prevent against the spread of Ebola and any similar threat, to avoid imminent peril to the public, and to promote early identification and prevent potential for an outbreak.

The Order enlists the participation of individuals and organizations in thirty (30) key areas of public health service. The network will be comprised of two (2) groupings. Individuals in the first twenty-seven (27) areas listed will need to provide DHEC with an email address that will enable them to receive one-way communications of public health importance, to include information, guidance, and instruction from DHEC. The second grouping consists of three (3) primary areas, including 911 operators, EMTs, and primary care physician offices. This group will be required to provide a facility name, designee name, position, email address, and phone number. This category of registration will allow DHEC to request and receive information related to Ebola preparedness.

All individuals and entities listed in the Order must monitor and respond to notifications and requests from DHEC within 24 hours or the timeframe specified in the communication.

According to DHEC Director Catherine Templeton, “The problem is twofold. First, there are dozens of listservs for different health care providers and first responders, but they are held by associations and other entities – so communicating directly and immediately has not been an option. Second, even though we have historically coordinated with the owners of all the listservs, we cannot ensure that the lists are complete. This Order allows DHEC to put all the emails into one database and requires those who should be receiving life saving information to enroll. Critical information to vital personnel immediately. It didn’t exist in SC until today.”

“I would like to thank Marcia Adams of the SC Budget and Control Board and her staff for standing this framework up in less than 48 hours.”

Residents with concerns about Ebola virus should visit DHEC’s Ebola webpage for the latest information, guidance and updates.

Be well. Practice big medicine.