Cancer doctor from Halton tests positive for coronavirus


A Burlington woman and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) radiation oncologist has reportedly tested positive COVID-19.

It’s Hamilton first confirmed case and the first for a Halton resident.

"Halton Region Public Health is continuing to work with provincial and local health counterparts and with the resident to identify all known contacts who may have been potentially exposed to the virus to assess if there is a potential health risk," said Dr. Hamidah Meghani, Medical Officer of Health. "The risk to Halton residents remains low."

On Wednesday (March 11), Hamilton Health Sciences confirmed that an oncologist who works out of Juravinski Hospital tested positive for the virus.

HHS says the woman recently returned from a trip to Hawaii and started experiencing symptoms.

She attended the emergency department at Juravinski Hospital where she was tested for the new coronavirus.

Proper infection control measures were taken and personal protective equipment was worn by staff and physicians who provided the care and testing.

She has since been in self-isolation at home but HHS said she was working at the Juravinski Cancer Center on the afternoon of March 9 and saw patients and interacted with colleagues and staff.

Those individuals are being contacted, HHS says.

This incidence was detected very quickly and all proper processes were followed," says Dr. Wes Stephen, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Hamilton Health Sciences.

Since becoming aware of this situation, HHS has been working closely with Public Health to determine and implement the most appropriate response.

So far, the response has been:

  • Those who were in direct contact with the physician have been directed to go into self-isolation at home, for a period of 14 days.
  • Others, including patients, who may have had indirect exposure because they were in clinic at the same time are being asked to self-monitor for any symptoms (fever above 38 degrees, coughing, nausea, etc.) and report the onset of any illness to public health officials.
  • There is no need for anyone else at the JCC or our other sites to take any action at this point. We have thoroughly cleaned the physician’s office space, the clinic area and other spaces at the JCC as required to remove the risk of the virus remaining on surfaces.

Going forward, the hospital says that:

  • We will continue to communicate with staff and the public about this situation as developments, if any, occur.
  • Hospital staff are instructed to stay home from work if they are feeling ill.
  • Hospital staff are instructed to avoid international travel.
  • HHS is doing all we can to minimize the impact of this situation for staff and for our patients.

There have been 93 cases of COVID-19 in Canada so far, with 41 of those in Ontario.

"When she began to show symptoms, infection control protocol was swiftly initiated and she was tested in a safe environment,”  added Dr. Stephen.

Out of an abundance of caution, last week, Hamilton Health Sciences expanded its criteria for testing beyond the standard case definition to include any travel outside Canada. As a result, this case was identified as quickly as possible. She is now in self-isolation protocol."

The global number of coronavirus cases is around 120,000 people in 115 countries. 

During a news conference in Ottawa Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $1-billion fund to help Canadians cope with the spread of COVID-19.

Photo courtesy Hamilton Health Sciences Facebook page

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