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Health & Wellness

Coronavirus-positive Ontario doctor signals need for continual testing of healthcare workers

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Jon Hamilton / NPR
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Nurse Jeff Gates prepares to assess a person for coronavirus.

A Hamilton, ON cancer doctor has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Now, dozens of patients and other medical staffers are faced with quarantine.

The oncologist came back from a Hawaiian vacation on Saturday with her doctor husband and began to see patients on Monday in a cancer center. She treated patients with a series of doctors, a medical resident and staff members. She was tested for the virus and declared infected Tuesday, and now almost everyone is in isolation.

Roswell Park President and CEO Candace Johnson said the case is why the cancer center is so careful about monitoring its staff and where they have traveled. Johnson said patients have to be protected.

"We get patients that have very infectious diseases all the time. We can have a cancer patient that has active tuberculosis, much more infectious, much more. So we have to be able to have the procedures in place to isolate those patients so that we keep everyone safe, whether it's the healthcare workers, the physicians, the families," Johnson said.

Johnson said staff members are tested constantly because of the risks to the patients of a staffer who has a disease like the flu, because it is such a threat to someone with cancer.

"We can't have nurses that have influenza taking care of our transplant patients," she said. "So we test them all the time to make sure that if they do have the flu, they stay home, because we can't afford to have our very, very immuno-compromised patients get in the presence of the flu virus. We're not talking coronavirus."

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