Nurses say they were told to withhold information at Montreal hospital

(CTV) – MONTREAL — A group of nurses at the Montreal General Hospital has signed a petition calling for better protection from COVID-19.

The petition comes after the nurses received an email from a superior on Sunday to continue working after they may have been exposed to a patient with COVID-19. The nurses say their superior told them not reveal this information to hospital security.

The nurses all work in the dialysis clinic at the hospital. They told CTV that last Tuesday, a regular patient came in for dialysis treatment and many were in proximity with the patient.

On Saturday, the patient returned for another regular treatment with symptoms described as a “cold.” The patient was given a mask and underwent a COVID-19 test. Results came back a day later that the patient was positive.

That same evening, nurses on the unit were sent an email advising them of the development but say they were told that the “situation was being reviewed very seriously” by two doctors on the team and the hospital’s occupational health and safety department.

The email also said in bold “this patient did not at all fit the picture of a patient who should have been screened and it required a fair amount of push from our team to get the swab done as it was being refused by ER as this patient was assumed or have a ‘regular cold.’ Do not tell the security guard tomorrow morning that you may have been exposed, answer the questions about symptoms and exposure to people who have travelled to the unit, put on a mask as we sort through the situation.”

The email went on to say that anyone symptomatic should not come to work and would be contacted by occupational health and safety.

Some nurses, however, say they are as alarmed by the email as they are by the possibility that they might have been infected.

“They are basically asking us to withhold information from security and potentially put our health and the health of others, including our families, at risk,” said one.

When asked if they could know which patient tested positive, the nurses said they were told no, citing confidentiality.

“The buzzword they are using with us now is ‘risk exposure,’” said the nurse. “Were you in proximity for more than ten minutes with the patient or within six feet? We feel if they start sending people home, they won’t have staff, so they are telling us to come in.”