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Local mental health facility reports first positive COVID-19 case

Public health told Waypoint officials there is no need to test staff or patients, or for anyone to self-isolate at this time and 'we are not in outbreak'
Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care officials say new protocols are in place to cope with COVID-19. Andrew Philips/MidlandToday

Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care is reporting its first confirmed COVID-19 case.

On Friday, the hospital received notification an employee had tested positive.

"Waypoint has one confirmed case of a staff member," Waypoint spokeswoman Laurene Hilderley said.

"That is the only case at Waypoint at this time – we do not have any patient confirmed cases and no other staff cases,  and we are not in outbreak. We do know the exposure did not occur at Waypoint."

But some are worried about the situation and wonder whether the hospital is doing enough to protect its workforce.

A person with close ties to Waypoint said there’s a great deal of fear and concern within the hospital at the moment, pointing out staff are still only being supplied with surgical masks.

“They need proper equipment, maybe a bit of news attention will help the staff to get what they need to be safe,” the person wrote. “This isn’t right trying to hide an outbreak about to happen.”

Hilderley said the hospital was advised that operations could continue with the current safety precautions in place.

"We, and all health care organizations, are required to work with Public Health on any type of infectious illness concern. The circumstances of this case were investigated and contact tracing was completed. Following the detailed investigation and review of the many safety precautions in place, we were not required to test any patients or staff, or self-isolate anyone at this time," she said.

Health unit spokesperson Kathy Dermott said that while one case does equal a declaration of an outbreak at long-term care and retirement homes, the same is not the case at hospitals like Waypoint.

"With hospitals, an outbreak declaration is based on a risk assessment," she said.

But Hilderley noted the hospital continues to be vigilant and has introduced a number of protocols to ensure patient and staff safety over the past two months.

"We want to assure everyone that safety precautions begin the minute you arrive at our hospital," she said. "Our staff have received additional training in infection prevention and control since the pandemic became a reality almost two months ago. Our staff are skilled and experienced health care workers and along with a specialized Infection Prevention and Control team have successfully managed infectious outbreaks in the past."

To enhance efforts to ensure compliance, Waypoint is screening anyone who enters the building for symptoms of illness and asking staff to self-monitor for symptoms of illness before they come to work and throughout their shift.

As well, staff working in the isolation unit are equipped with full personal protective equipment (PPE) so they are ready to safely care for patients while also tending to their mental-health care needs.

Staff in clinical programs and those who can’t physically distance by six feet are being given a new mask each day with others receiving replacements any time their masks are wet, soiled or damaged.

Additional measures includes closing the hospital to visitors and deliveries except operational supplies using virtual technology/phone calls, limiting who comes in the building while having some staff work from home and enhanced screening of all staff that includes taking temperatures and the opening of a new special isolation unit for any patients with symptoms of illness and all new admissions.