Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Canadian experts offer advice on fighting SARS

THOROUGHNESS Explaining how Ontario used communication and distribution to effectively control its SARS outbreak, the visitors said Taiwan should do the same

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A team of Canadian experts credited for having brought the SARS outbreak in that country under control told a Taipei press conference yesterday that stepping up efforts to ensure that the health-care system is on track is critical to containing the disease.

After the first few cases of SARS appeared in Canada in early March, the province of Ontario declared a provincial emergency and developed comprehensive directives based on scientific evidence to combat the atypical pneumonia, said Ontario Commissioner of Public Security Dr. James Young.

A critical part of the province's directives was designed to ensure that the health-care system, which was then facing a "risky" situation, would not be paralyzed because of the contagion, otherwise treatment could have been jeopardized, Young said.

"The issue and the solution is in the health-care system," Young said.

Young, who headed the four-member delegation, is the assistant deputy minister in the public safety division of Ontario's Ministry of Public Safety and Security.

The team wrapped up its three-day visit to Taipei with the press conference yesterday morning before leaving for its next destination, Beijing.

While declining to directly com-ment on the situation in Taiwan, Young said every country with an outbreak of the disease has found it a key challenge to ensure that its health-care system remains intact.

Pertinent measures in the Canadian experience included reinforced infection controls, provision of a sufficient quantity of protective gear for health-care workers, suspension of all visits to hospitals and the temporary suspension of clinic operations in hospitals.

These broad and sweeping measures applied to all 330 hospitals in the province without exception, Young said. , who is

Five of these hospitals saw transmissions, although no trans-missions took place on any form of public transportation or in schools, the team members said.

Bonnie Henry, associate medical officer of health at Toronto Public Health, said the Canadian approach also included more breaks and shorter working days for health workers on the frontlines of caring for SARS patients.

Pertinent re-education for health workers was also critical to help the medical staff protect themselves and attend to patients, Henry said.

Around two-thirds of the probable and suspected cases of the contagion in Canada were health workers, Henry said.

Sandra Callery, the infection prevention and control coordinator at St. Joseph's Health Center in Toronto, said she had not heard of any Canadian health workers resigning, although some were initially fearful when facing the new disease.

Over 150 health-care workers in Taiwan have resigned, apparently to protest what they said was less-than-sufficient supplies of medical and protective gear in the hospitals.

As of Wednesday, Health Canada, that nation's health ministry, has received reports of 318 probable or suspect cases of SARS, with 24 reported deaths.

"To date, transmission has been limited to specific transmission settings such as households, hospitals and specific community settings," Health Canada said on its Web site.

On May 14, the World Health Organization removed Toronto from its list of areas with recent local transmission.

The team left Canada for Hong Kong on May 13 and is scheduled to wrap up their trip to Asia today after their visit to Beijing, Young said.

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