NEWS

B.C. sets up Ebola preparedness task force

10/18/2014 12:58 EDT | Updated 12/17/2014 05:59 EST
The B.C. government has set up an Ebola preparedness task force to deal with the deadly disease should it surface in the province, but it insists the risk is low. 

"We want to reassure British Columbians that health authorities have response plans in place if a suspected Ebola case does present," said Health Minister Terry Lake in a written statement on Friday. "Those plans are being refined and updated based on the latest information and reviews from Europe and the United States."

Lake says the task force will be co-chaired by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and associate deputy minister of health Lynn Stevenson.

"The task force is meeting regularly and will address, as a priority, equipment needs, training needs and preparedness," said Lake, "as well as update clinical information on how best to provide treatment and follow up in the unlikely event that a person [in B.C.] is diagnosed with Ebola."

Lake adds the task force is looking at choosing one hospital to treat possible cases of Ebola on the Lower Mainland, and selecting other referral hospitals in the regional health authorities that haven't already chosen one.

The Fraser Health Authority has designated Surrey Memorial Hospital as its Ebola treatment centre.

Nurses raised Ebola concerns

Terry Lake says the task force was established after the B.C. Nurses' Union raised concerns about how prepared the province is to deal with the disease.

"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," he said.

"As well, the task force is asking health authorities to prioritize training for health-care workers who would be engaged with a patient."

On Tuesday, the BCNU publicly released a letter to provincial health authorities accusing them of not being ready to handle cases of the deadly virus.

"Your health authority is not ready to respond to cases of Ebola," said the letter by the BCNU Council.

"On paper things may look good, however we have been canvassing our members on designated units, who advise on the ground that is simply not the case.

"For example, nurses have not been trained in care protocols for Ebola patients or advised and trained regarding the proper use of safety equipment.

"This is alarming given the recent news of a nurse who has become infected with the virus after caring for the first Ebola patient in North America."

Since the letter was written, a second health care worker in Dallas who cared for an infected patient has tested positive for Ebola.

Potential Ebola diagnosis delayed 

Meanwhile, CBC News has learned Air Canada refused to fly a blood specimen from a patient suspected of Ebola from Edmonton to Winnipeg last weekend.

Officials are blaming poor communication and unclear protocols for the delay of more than 24 hours between when the sample was collected in Edmonton and when it finally arrived in Winnipeg's National Microbiology Lab. 

Sources tell CBC News the patient in question came into the emergency room of an Edmonton-area hospital midday last Saturday.

WHO admits mistakes

Elsewhere, the World Health Organization has acknowledged that it botched attempts to stop the now-spiralling Ebola outbreak in West Africa, blaming factors including incompetent staff and a lack of information.

In the document obtained by The Associated Press, the agency wrote that experts should have realized that traditional infectious disease containment methods wouldn't work in a region with porous borders and broken health systems.

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