In an open letter published in a daily newspaper on Wednesday morning, 15 specialist doctors claim that 17 patients have been infected with the coronavirus. Four of them are said to have died and two are in intensive care. In addition, seven staff on the hematology-oncology floor are also said to have contracted the disease, including five who were not vaccinated.
The hematology-oncology floor of the CHUS has been described as a “sanctuary zone” since the start of the pandemic. To be admitted and hospitalized, a patient must have taken a negative COVID test. The current outbreak therefore shows that these are nosocomial cases, all patients being negative upon arrival.
Dr. Michel Pavic, oncologist and director of the hemato-oncology service at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sherbrooke, co-signed this letter. He affirms that
the situation is currently under control […] but we wanted to alert the government, because we have virus transmissions, possibly by unvaccinated and untested personnel.
The doctor recalls that
contrary to what we all thought, hematologic-oncology workers who refuse to be vaccinated are not required to be screened three times a week. Only the personnel of certain units, such as the emergency, are subject to this obligation. The request had been made to add this measure to the ministerial decree, which was refused.
The warning message we wanted to get across is to educate all healthcare staff to be vaccinated, because it is essential. We fully respect the person’s right to be vaccinated, but if we do [ce] choice, one should have the obligation to be tested three times a week.
Dr Pavic points out that there is a low risk that the transmission was caused by a visitor,
but patients and visitors do not move from room to room. The staff then passed it on. And this transmission is favored when we are not vaccinated.
The oncologist believes that the Ministry of Health should revise its position, and require at least screening tests. He also recalls that the dire shortage of staff means that it is not possible to remove unvaccinated employees, as this could worsen the shortage.