Leadership and staff with the Lake of the Woods District Hospital are investigating the cause of their COVID-19 outbreak announced over the weekend.

In a virtual call with local media, President and CEO of the hospital, Ray Racette, says two patients who have been staying at the hospital began showing COVID-19 symptoms on Friday, and all of the hospital’s patients were then tested throughout Saturday to try to find any additional cases.

“Because those patients have been in our care for some time, that meant that exposure happened within the process of care. Because of that, it then met the definition of an outbreak situation,” explained Racette, noting the outbreak was declared on Saturday afternoon in partnership with the Northwestern Health Unit.

Ontario defines a COVID-19 outbreak within a hospital as a situation where two or more staff members or patients are confirmed to be COVID-19 positive within a hospital unit within 14 days, where the cases could have been acquired through spread at the facility.

“First off, we had to figure out if it was just two patients or had it spread? A lot of our work is to act quickly to see what we’re really dealing with. That work began Friday evening. Our Pandemic Team met Saturday. We tested patients, and at that time, based on testing, the number of cases expanded.”

As of March 9, the outbreak has been contained to 9 patients, originally announced as 10 patients. Racette says the 10th person is no longer considered to be part of the outbreak, as they had already been admitted with COVID-19 symptoms and didn’t acquire it within the hospital.

Racette adds the outbreak was found within the same hospital unit, and staff that are known to have direct contact with the affected patients have been directed to self-isolate as a precaution.

“We have not, in any of our testing, found spread to any other patients at this point in time,” adds Racette, who notes significant staff testing is underway on-site and through their COVID-19 Assessment Centre, and results are coming back within three days.

Next steps for hospital leadership include an extensive investigation into the cause of the COVID-19 outbreak, which includes interviewing and tracking over 200 hospital staff who may have come into contact with the affected patients over the last two weeks.

“We have a very large patient care team. Lots of people go into patient rooms or units to do their work. We’re looking at all of the staff who may have been in the same room with the affected patients. That will give us a good sense of who has been in contact with those patients.”

For community members who may be caring for the affected patients, Racette says those essential caregivers will also be tested for COVID-19 and visitor restrictions are expected to remain in place to help limit the number of people entering the hospital.

“All of the visitors who came to see patients, in particular, to see those patients that are COVID-19 positive, but other patients as well, are being contact traced by public health. With the approval of the individual, we’ll want to test those visitors as well. It could have been a visitor who brought that into our building.”

Essential services like dialysis and chemotherapy will continue, but all non-essential or elective outpatient services have been suspended for the foreseeable future, and a decision is expected later this week. Residents with in-person appointments may be switched to a virtual meeting.

Racette notes many staff members haven’t received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of yet, but 180 staff members have, and 70 additional doses are expected this week. Racette says the hospital has been administering doses to its highest-priority staff.

Anyone with any COVID-19 symptoms is asked to self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.

For more information:
LWDH outbreak expands to 10 patients, some elective outpatients services cancelled
Outbreak declared at the Lake of the Woods District Hospital