Health P.E.I. confirms patients with COVID-19 sometimes waiting alongside others in ER

·2 min read
'We may not always have two physical[ly] different rooms. However, we may have the respiratory on one side and the non-respiratory on the other,' says Tara Ferguson, provincial manager of infection prevention and control for Health P.E.I. (CBC - image credit)
'We may not always have two physical[ly] different rooms. However, we may have the respiratory on one side and the non-respiratory on the other,' says Tara Ferguson, provincial manager of infection prevention and control for Health P.E.I. (CBC - image credit)

Health P.E.I. confirmed Friday that there have been times when COVID-positive patients or those with symptoms could not be separated from others in emergency room waiting areas due to a lack of space.

There has been an uptick in cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. this summer, as well as crowded ER rooms due to a shortage of both family doctors and health-care workers.

Tara Ferguson, provincial manager of infection prevention and control for Health P.E.I., says once they are screened and admitted, patients with COVID-19 are separated from patients who do not have the virus, although they may be in the same unit.

"We do the same thing in the emergency room," she said. "It's just we may not always have two physical[ly] different rooms.

"However, we may have the respiratory on one side and the non-respiratory on the other. So essentially we are doing the same thing. We just don't have the physical walls to show the barrier between them."

Getty Images
Getty Images

As well, she said, people waiting for care are encouraged to wear a mask. In some cases, Ferguson said dividers are placed between patients, or chairs are positioned away from each other to allow for people to be physically distanced.

And while COVID-19 spreads through airborne droplets, Health P.E.I. said its infection control protocol seems to be working.

"We've not linked any transmission to one of our ERs," said Ferguson. "Most people are … coming in with it or [we are] finding it on our admission screening, but we've not linked anything back to our ER waiting rooms."

She said since the elimination of specialized COVID-19 units, positive cases are grouped and treated together on units.

Ferguson noted that it's almost unavoidable that some patients will contract COVID-19 while in hospital.

"We're in health care; we do have that risk. However, I think we've done a really good job with our screening protocols, our testing protocols to prevent that from happening," she said.

"So we do screen every patient daily for COVID symptoms. We test when they become symptomatic. We put them on isolation the moment they become symptomatic."

Ferguson said Health P.E.I. has been updating its infection control protocol since it was brought in over two years ago. She said decisions are made based on reducing risk while trying to maintain a health-care system that works for Islanders.