10/15/2014 05:13 EDT | Updated 12/15/2014 05:59 EST

Alberta's Health Boss Tries To Reassure People About Ebola

EDMONTON - Alberta's chief medical health officer is trying to reassure people that the province is ready to deal with potential cases of Ebola.

Dr. James Talbot says four hospitals have been designated to deal with the deadly virus — two in Edmonton and two in Calgary.

He says Alberta also has a provincial lab that can quickly test for Ebola.

Talbot says the province has been working out protocols since August for health-care staff on how to deal with any cases.

People who have recently travelled in West Africa or have been exposed to the body fluids of someone who might have Ebola are being told to telephone Alberta Health Link for advice before going to a hospital.

Talbot says Alberta is well prepared, there have been no cases of Ebola and the risk of getting the virus is very low.

"In order to prepare in Alberta we have worked with physicians, lab workers, hospital staff and first responders and we have informed them of the measures needed to safely manage potential Ebola cases," Talbot said Wednesday.

The union representing registered nurses in Alberta has been questioning that level of preparedness.

The United Nurses of Alberta said staff at an Edmonton hospital who were dealing with a recent suspected case of Ebola were told they only needed to wear a regular protective mask instead of a special mask. The potential virus case turned out to be false.

Jane Sustrik, a union official, said some nurses are worried they won't know what to do if they have to treat a patient with Ebola and want more training.

Vickie Kaminski, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, said more training will be provided.

Talbot said health-care staff already know about basic infectious control protocols. He said the province will build on that knowledge with ongoing Ebola-specific training.

"We are trying to reinforce it now, in advance of a potential threat for whom the consequences would be more severe than failing to observe the proper protocols for influenza," he said.

The concerns expressed by the United Nurses of Alberta mirror those of RNs in the United States.

On Wednesday, a group called National Nurses United in the U.S. issued a release calling for high safety standards for staff dealing with Ebola patients after a second health worker in Dallas tested positive for the virus.

The workers, who are both employed at the hospital where an Ebola patient died, have expressed frustration over lack of training.

There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Canada.

The four facilities in Alberta that have been designated to deal with Ebola cases include the University Hospital in Edmonton, the South Health Campus in Calgary and the hospitals for sick children in both cities.


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