The Northwestern Health Unit, Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and the Meno Ya Win Health Centre are all working to keep hospital patients and the Sioux Lookout community safe, after six hospital staff screened positive for COVID-19.

Over the weekend, the Northwestern Health Unit and Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout were notified of ‘several’ positive COVID-19 test results, through a screening program of Meno Ya Win hospital staff.

All six of the hospital staff are in isolation at this time and are considered asymptomatic, as no cases of illness have been found within the facility or the extended care facility. Contact tracing is currently underway for at least 18 Sioux Lookout community members.

Acting Medical Officer of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Ian Gemmill, had more details into how the cluster of asymptomatic cases was found.

“I want to emphasize that this is a cluster of asymptomatic people, who on screening, were found to be positive with no symptoms. At this time there is no outbreak of illness, and we are carefully monitoring anyone who is in the hospital or has an associated risk from the cases,” said Gemmill, in his weekly virtual conference with regional media.

CEO of the Meno Ya Win Health Centre, Heather Lee, joined Gemmill in the call. She adds the three organizations are conducting a joint investigation into where the virus originated within the hospital, and to help find any other asymptomatic cases in patients before they can turn into an outbreak.

“We are very grateful to our partners who are helping to navigate this with us. We want to reassure the public and our communities, both locally and in the north, that we are here to serve you. We have everything in place that we need to have in place to ensure that you stay safe.”

Lee adds that 147 staff members have taken voluntary COVID-19 testing as of June 21. The hospital employs 430 total residents, and further voluntary testing has been ‘strongly recommended’ by hospital leadership. Visitor restrictions have also been reinforced.

Dr. John Guilfoyle, the Public Health Physician of the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, says they are working daily in partnership with the hospital and health unit, and there is no known evidence of community spread at this time.

“Unfortunately, this is to be expected given what’s happening across the world. But the good news at this point, is that we really have had no illness associated with this so far. That is great. But we are not taking this without a great degree of concern.”

Guilfoyle notes that visitor restrictions and additional staff testing has been reinforced in the Jeremiah McKay Hostel as well, and SLFNHA is not reporting any evidence of community spread of COVID-19 at this time. He’s encouraging all members with possible symptoms to get tested immediately.

All community members are asked to assume that COVID-19 is in your community, and to always follow social distancing and hand hygiene measures at all times.

For more information:
NWHU reporting several positive test results at Sioux Lookout hospital
No spike of COVID-19 in Kenora, health unit