Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is now officially designated to treat Ebola patients.
Hospital employees should be fully trained to deal with any cases of the deadly disease, that originated in West Africa and has since begun to slowly spread around the world.
Acting chief of staff Mark Henderson said the hospital becomes the 11th in Ontario to earn the designation, adding the delay was likely an oversight by the Ministry of Health.
“If you think about where Thunder Bay is situated, we are the only regional centre in Northwestern Ontario. The area we serve is the size of France, so it seems it’s appropriated that we have one hospital here that is designated to take care of patients like this should we ever be faced with one,” Henderson said.
Thunder Bay Regional staff last month encountered a patient who presented himself at the hospital’s emergency department complaining of Ebola-like symptoms. The man was quarantined and tested, the results coming back negative.
Henderson said once the training is completed, staff will be fully prepared to handle any future patients presenting with symptoms of the disease.
Hospital officials have spent an undisclosed amount of money buying special astronaut-like suits designed to keep staff safe when encountering infected patients.
“There’s very specialized personal protective equipment that you wear if you are looking after an Ebola or an Ebola-suspected patient,” Henderson said. “It’s quite something to put it on and to take it off. It has to be done very carefully. There are special masks that the nurses have to use. They have to be fitted for those to make sure they are doing completely the job they want.”
Additional costs will be incurred covering staff pulled for training, over and above the equipment purchases.
“I think It’s a two-hour training per individual,” Henderson said.
“So there will be come costs involved.”
Henderson said with additional screening being conducted at Canada’s ports of entry, it’s unlikely a case will make its way to Thunder Bay. But because the incubation period can last as long as three weeks, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a patient suffering from Ebola could land in the city.
About 4,960 people have died of Ebola complications in the most recent outbreak, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.