TORONTO - Ontario will update its guidelines to help front-line health workers deal with potential Ebola cases by the end of the week, the health minister said Wednesday.
Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins held a news conference to say Ontario is prepared and ready to treat any suspected cases, about one hour after the head of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario criticized what she called a lack of a clear plan.
Doris Grinspun said one of the lessons learned from the deadly SARS outbreak in Toronto was the need for a co-ordinated strategy to deal with the problem. Nurses at the time felt that their voices were not at the table, she said.
"The main thing in two of the hospitals where there were suspected cases of Ebola is that they had received zero instructions and education, zero," Grinspun said.
"I would not take the laissez-fare approach of the federal government of not being concerned, it is irresponsible."
There have been eight suspected cases of Ebola in Ontario, but every one of them has turned out to be negative for the deadly virus. The risk of contracting the virus here is "very low," Hoskins said.
"The way to keep Ontarians safe is to keep our front-line health-care workers safe and protected," Hoskins said. "This is my No. 1 priority. That's why we're working with employers to ensure they are providing appropriate training for their staff on the use of personal protective equipment and other occupational health and safety measures."
It's important to remember Ebola cannot be spread through casual contact, but through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, said Hoskins, who is also a medical doctor.
The nurses are calling for a supervisor to be appointed at the beginning after a case is identified to instruct the nurses involved on how to wear the protective gear and how to take it off.
Hoskins said he is working with counterparts across Canada to ensure everyone is following best practices.
"My objective is to make sure that there's no health-care worker in Ontario on the front lines that we're asking to be part of our defence against Ebola, I don't want a single health-care worker that feels that they are not adequately protected or secure or don't have the equipment that they require," he said.
The province has designated Toronto Western Hospital for individuals returning from affected West African countries who may be suspected of having Ebola, Hoskins said. He is considering designating certain hospitals should a case be found to be positive.