Ontario is designating 10 hospitals as Ebola treatment centres and beefing up training and protective equipment for front-line health-care workers after nurses warned the province was not prepared to safely flag and treat Ebola cases.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced a new Ebola readiness plan Monday that includes an Ebola "command table" that he will chair.
EBOLA: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
The death toll in West Africa's Ebola outbreak is 4,546 out of a total of 9,191 confirmed, probable and suspected cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the WHO said Friday.
The province's interim chief medical officer of health has also issued a new directive to hospitals and other acute care facilities about the level of training they need to conduct and the type of protective gear they need to have in stock.
The province's public lab will be able to conduct preliminary tests for Ebola beginning Monday, the minister said.
Dr. Hoskins defended the ministry's decision to wait until now to put in place "enhanced" measures to deal with Ebola, saying Ontario's experience with SARS has prepared it to deal with infectious diseases in general.
"I'm confident that the measures that were put in place (before now) – the protocols, the procedures and equipment – were more than adequate to protect Ontarians," he said.
The designated hospitals in Ontario are: The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Hamilton Health Sciences, Health Sciences North, the Hospital for Sick Children, Kingston General Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, The Ottawa Hospital, St. Michael's Hospital, Sunnybrook Hospital and Toronto Western, where the minister unveiled his new plan Friday.
An Ebola outbreak has been raging for months in West Africa, where thousands of cases and nearly 4,500 deaths have overwhelmed the region's already fragile health systems. Last month, a Liberian man unwittingly brought the disease to the United States and later died at a Dallas hospital. Two nurses who cared for him were infected, exposing a lack of preparation at the hospital and prompting nursing leaders across the U.S. and Canada to sound the alarm about inadequate training and equipment at their own facilities.
"I have to thank our front line health-care workers, including our nurses, for allowing us to understand the situation on the ground," Dr. Hoskins said.
He promised his new measures would keep nurses and other health workers safe.
"I'm confident these are the strongest, most stringent measures available anywhere in this country," he added.
There has never been a case of Ebola in Canada. Public health officials say the risk of the virus making its way to Canada remains very low.