There are 24 staff members at Guelph General Hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday morning.
Another 12 hospital staff in the region have also contracted the virus.
There are three other hospitals in the region: Palmerston, Mount Forest and Orangeville. A spokesperson for the hospitals in Palmerston and Mount Forest said on April 4 that there are currently no staff members at those hospitals who have tested positive.
Most of the cases at Guelph General are related to an outbreak that was identified on a particular wing at the hospital a little over a week ago, said Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
“It’s not surprising,” Dr. Mercer said of the number.
She said it is a “natural reflection” of ongoing testing that was done after the outbreak was identified. Doctors, nurses and other staff members who came into contact with the outbreak have been testing positive since it was discovered.
“The numbers do not reflect any issues on how the hospital is responding at all,” said Mercer. “People are tested at different times and their results come back at different times.”
On March 24, two staff members were reported to have tested positive. On March 26 two more tested positive and Public Health declared an outbreak on wing 4E, a general use wing at the hospital.
Dr. Mercer said it was her knowledge that all 24 were self-isolating and recovering at home.
She said losing staff for a period of time puts a strain on the hospital.
“Absolutely it does. I know that all hospitals, Guelph General included, were thinking and preparing for staff absenteeism. But having it all occur in one area of the hospital is distressing for the leadership of the hospital as well as their colleagues.
“It does put a strain on the resources throughout the hospital,” particularly when it is staff predominantly from one wing of the hospital, she said.
It can take longer for health care workers to return to work because they are required to have two negative tests 24 hours apart before being cleared.
“It takes a little bit longer. They’re feeling okay and they want to return to work, but they have to test negative,” Dr. Mercer said.