In an attempt to help slow down the outbreak of COVID-19 cases at Mission Institution’s Medium Security Unit, and to treat those who have been infected, Fraser Health has created a Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. They are also creating a designated, secure site at the hospital for those who have tested positive.
“This will enable us to quickly expand our capacity to better care for patients from Mission Institution who require a higher level of care than what can be provided at the federal medical facility,” said Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO, Fraser Health.
She said the mobile unit – which is known as a hospital on wheels – will serve as an extension of the hospital site. The unit should be able to provide care for five or six patients before having to open up the designated unit in the hospital.
Lee said the unit and the designated area will have enhanced security.
“We are seeing about two guards to one patient in terms of ratio that have been coming into our sites,” she said.
Lee added what is really important is that Corrections Canada ensures that the inmates are safe and secure as well as, from a hospital perspective, to ensure that the staff and patients are secure.
According to the latest statistics from Corrections Canada, Mission Institution’s medium security unit now has 41 inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19. The only other federal institution in BC with a positive result is the Pacific Regional Treatment Centre, with one.
Six correctional service staff in Mission have also tested positive.
Along with Mission’s 41 positive results, six tests came back negative and 16 tests are still pending for a total of 63 inmates tested.
In total, Canadian federal prisons have 82 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 205 negative tests and 26 tests pending.
Asked why Mission has only performed 63 tests on inmates so far, Dr. Martin Lavoie, chief medical health officer, Fraser Health explained that only inmates or other patients who are symptomatic are tested. He said there is no added value in testing asymptomatic people and Fraser Health does not recommend doing that.
The decision to open a Mobile Medical Unit came just a day after the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN) issued a statement asking local management from Mission Institution to put in place “relevant measures to protect the health of its 155 correctional officers as well as the inmate population, as soon as possible.”
“As soon as the first cases were declared in Port-Cartier Institution in Quebec, measures were undertaken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The management of Mission Institution needed to take similar immediate steps, but that did not happen,” claims Derek Chin, regional president of the Pacific Region, UCCO-SACC-CSN.
The statement also asks for an immediate stop to the movement of staff between institutions and reduce movement between posts within the institution. It also asks that surgical masks are distributed to all inmates.
“Mission Institution, of all 49 institutions in the country, should not wait on the distribution of masks to inmates and ensure that staff have an adequate supply for their daily work,” said Chin.
Mission Mayor Pam Alexis released a statement about the outbreak on the district website last week.
“The news of cases of COVID-19 at Mission Medium Institution is deeply concerning. This is not only a serious public health issue for the inmates on lockdown and the staff working there, but is a great concern for the staff who are residents of Mission and have families at home and go about their lives within the community,” Alexis wrote.
“Since Monday, myself, District staff and MP Brad Vis have been requesting more information from Corrections Canada about the protocols they have in place to contain this outbreak and keep everyone safe. Corrections Canada staff have reached out to us and we are confident that the appropriate health experts are involved and appropriate measures to control the outbreak, including a full lockdown, are in place. Of critical importance is that these measures include actions that staff must take to protect their families and the outside community.”