Top brass at LHSC chastises staff after positive COVID-19 tests

LHSC President and CEO Dr. Paul Woods. (File photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

As the number of COVID-19 infections continues to rise among staff at the London Health Sciences Centre, the hospital’s top official is scolding his employees, calling the situation “unacceptable.”

In a memo sent to hospital staff on Thursday, LHSC President and CEO Dr. Paul Woods said as of Monday, 14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. He added that another 55 staff members are either under investigation or awaiting test results.

He said based on internal contact tracing, many of the cases were spread by direct staff-to-staff transmission.

“To be clear: this is unacceptable, considering the infection control safety protocols and procedures LHSC has put in place over the past eight months,” Woods said in the memo. “This week’s numbers of staff and inpatient cases, coupled with a sharp and alarming increase in community transmission, must serve as our wake-up call. I know we are tired, but this pandemic is not over and LHSC has an obligation to ensure we can continue to provide safe and high-quality care to every patient who needs it.”

Woods went as far as to say that staff could face disciplinary action or even termination if they willfully choose not to follow critical safety practices while at work.

“As health-care workers, we must set ourselves to a higher standard when it comes to living and modelling public health guidelines both inside and outside our workplace,” Woods said. “Living our value of accountability means holding ourselves and each other accountable in adhering to the highest standards of personal, professional, and corporate responsibility.”

Woods continued by reminding hospital staff that they should only be removing their masks while eating during a break, and social distancing of six feet must be maintained. He said the hospital’s facilities management team is working on making additional break spaces available to help accommodate staff.

“I acknowledge this pandemic has resulted in many inconveniences in your work and professional lives. Please remember that safety is more important than convenience,” he said. “We need to ensure that our actions are not contributing to our community’s increasing curve, and remain consistent and committed to following infection control safety protocols at all times—even when it’s inconvenient. This is hard, I acknowledge that. Health care is not easy, particularly amidst a pandemic. But we must be exemplars for our community as many look to us and how we conduct ourselves personally and professionally.”

Last week, the Middlesex London Health Unit declared outbreaks at LHSC on the fourth-floor general medicine unit and the ninth floor orthopaedics unit at University Hospital. Both outbreaks remained active on Thursday.

As of Thursday, there are 124 active cases of COVID-19 within the London-Middlesex region, with the local health unit reporting 23 new cases.  Since the start of the pandemic, the region has reported a total of 1,143 cases.