Scabies outbreak spreads at Halifax hospital as 37 nurses are diagnosed
Published Tuesday, April 29, 2014 7:08PM ADT
A staff member who works in both the cardiovascular intensive care unit and in another unit at the Halifax Infirmary has been diagnosed and treated for scabies.
On Monday, the Capital District Health Authority said 30 nurses at the Halifax Infirmary were affected by the scabies outbreak. On Tuesday, Capital Health said the number of staff members whohave either complained of rashes or requested treatment for scabies had grown to 37.
The outbreak began with a transplant patient who has been in the cardiovascular intensive care unit on the fifth floor of the Halifax Infirmary for almost two months.
Fifteen nurses were affected by the outbreak last week, prompting the cancellation of six surgeries on Friday due to a staff shortage.
The cardiac unit is being monitored and health officials confirm a staff member who works on another unit has been diagnosed and treated.
Nurses had expressed concerns over who will cover the cost of treatments, but the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union says the treatments will be covered by Capital Health.
“The employer will cover the creams,” says Joan Jessome, president of the NSGEU.
“In fact, they’re going to have the pharmacies stock the cream so that staff can go down and get it at no cost to staff and no cost for the staff who have purchased it for their families.”
Health officials say scabies can be difficult to diagnose because they can look like a number of skin conditions. The sick and the elderly are especially vulnerable to a more advanced form of the disease.
“Those people who are immunocompromised are going to have many more bugs living in their skin than a normal person who gets scabies,” says Dr. Robin Taylor, medical officer of health.
Since the infection is only spread through skin contact, Capital Health is confident the outbreak will be easily contained.
The issue was raised in the Nova Scotia legislature Tuesday afternoon when Health Minister Leo Glavine was asked to make a statement on the matter.
“Those are conditions that are unacceptable in terms of the total requirements of good-quality patient care,” said Glavine.
The health minister says employees in maintenance and housekeeping are making the issue a top priority.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ron Shaw