UPDATE: QEH Unit 1 closed to visitors for 24 hours

Staff investigating gastro-intestinal illness symptoms reported by patients

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on November 5, 2012
Queen Elizabeth Hospital's Unit 1 is closed to visitors for at least the next 24 hours as the hospital checks into patient complaints of gastro-intestinal illness symptoms.
Guardian file photo

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is restricting access for visitors to one of its units after several patients came down with symptoms of a gastro-intestinal illness.

Dr. Rosemary Henderson, QEH medical director, said the hospital planned to restrict access to Unit 1 for 24 hours, with a few exceptions, such as in palliative care situations.

"For regular, routine visitors, we will not be permitting those visitors to come on to the unit," she said.

Henderson said a cluster of patients on the unit, which houses orthopedic patients and some medical patients, developed diarrhea over the weekend.

As of Monday afternoon, Henderson said the illness wasn't widespread with only a few patients who still had symptoms and at its peak there were less than 12.

"We want to make sure we do everything to prevent the spread if it turns out to be an infectious diarrhea, to prevent the spread either to other patients or to members of the public," she said.

As it looks for a cause of the illness, the QEH has some test results that were negative for norovirus, but there are still some pending, Henderson said.

"We haven't identified a pathogen but we don't have all the lab results in."

Henderson said it could take time to get further test results, but sometimes a cause of infectious diarrhea is never found.

"Sometimes we just don't know," she said.

For now, the hospital is taking precautions with patients by having anyone who enters their room wear gloves, masks and gowns and Henderson said the QEH has enhanced cleaning on the ward.

She also said the QEH had to cancel a few surgeries for orthopedic cases because of restricted admissions to the unit.

"It's kind of a combination of putting those patients at risk, as well as the workload that's involved in caring for all the patients that are in isolation on that ward for one reason and another," she said.

The hospital is monitoring the situation daily and planned to have a meeting Tuesday morning for an update.

Henderson said the QEH wants to make sure the unit is clear of the illness before it starts re-admitting patients, which usually involves waiting one incubation period.

But she also didn't know how long an incubation period would be because the cause wasn't known yet.

"It could be a couple of days. It might be longer," she said.

Henderson said the hospital also had several patients with symptoms of gastro-intestinal illness in another unit in July.

"We presume that it was infectious because it behaved that way, but we never did track it down to any one pathogen," she said.