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ER would move elsewhere at QEH in case of outbreak, says P.E.I. health minister

PC MLA Cory Deagle during a sitting of the legislature. Deagle asked Health Minister James Aylward what contingency plans are in place in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19 at the QEH.
PC MLA Cory Deagle during a sitting of the legislature. Deagle asked Health Minister James Aylward what contingency plans are in place in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19 at the QEH. - Stu Neatby
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —



Health Minister James Aylward said plans and protocols have been developed to move the emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown in the event of a serious outbreak of COVID-19.

Aylward was asked about these plans by Progressive Conservative back bencher MLA Cory Deagle, one day after chief health officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced that a health-care worker at P.E.I.'s largest hospital tested positive for COVID-19.

Testing remains underway, but of the 506 tests conducted as of Tuesday, all have so far come back negative.

"The recent situation with cases is unique and concerning because it centres on our province's main hospital," Deagle said during question period on Tuesday.

"What sort of contingency plans exist in the event that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Emergency Room were ever required to go off-line for a time due to an outbreak of COVID-19?”

Health Minister James Aylward said plans and protocols have been developed to move the emergency department at the QEH in Charlottetown in the event of a serious outbreak of COVID-19. - Stu Neatby
Health Minister James Aylward said plans and protocols have been developed to move the emergency department at the QEH in Charlottetown in the event of a serious outbreak of COVID-19. - Stu Neatby

Aylward indicated there have been plans prepared that anticipate this possibility.

"If, in the very unlikely event that the emergency department ever had to close its doors at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which is our main acute-care facility on P.E.I., the team at Health P.E.I. does have protocols in place, do have plans in place, for just such an emergency,” Aylward said.

“There are other assets, other locations within the QEH that they would be able to transition to."

Deagle also asked if there were plans in place to move the diagnostic testing lab at the QEH in the event of an outbreak. This lab has conducted a significant amount of testing related to COVID-19.

"What sort of contingency plans exist if we were to temporarily not have access to our testing labs at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital?" Deagle asked.

Aylward’s response seemed to indicate there was no immediate plan to relocate the lab in the event of an outbreak.

"The extreme strict protocols just to enter that facility are second to none. I feel very confident that our lab would remain secure and that all protocols that are required are in place to protect our lab," Aylward said.

COVID-19 testing is conducted at diagnostic testing labs at both QEH and at Prince County Hospital.

The health-care worker at QEH who tested positive appears to be connected to an 80-year-old woman, who visited the emergency room on July 4, who also tested positive on July 11.

During a media briefing on Tuesday, Morrison said it “was difficult to know for sure” which of these two individuals contracted the virus first.

The health-care worker had tested negative after travelling outside of the Atlantic bubble region. After being tested again on Sunday, the test came back positive.

Morrison said on Tuesday that health-care workers who come to P.E.I. to work, or who return to P.E.I. after travel, are required to be tested immediately before returning to work, and then re-tested twice thereafter – three days after the initial test and then seven days after the initial test.

Health-care workers, like other essential workers, are not required to self-isolate after travel.

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