Toronto General Hospital says medical surgical ICU free of COVID-19 for 1st time in more than a year

Toronto General Hospital says its medical surgical intensive care unit is free of infectious COVID-19 patients for the first time since March 26, 2020, and its managers and nurses are celebrating.

Denise Morris, a nurse manager in the unit, told CBC News on Wednesday that today is an emotional day. She said the ICU nurses have showed up every day committed to caring for their patients. The ICU nurses are hoping to get a little bit of rest now after a tiring and trying time, she added.

“It makes me emotional because the team behind me has left their families and come to work committed to their patients everyday despite the fear, despite the workload and still showing up every day,” Morris said.

“Today, I’m emotional that it’s been 15 months, and today is the first day COVID-free and it’s a wonderful feeling but it’s not us. It’s this group back here that we should be celebrating,” she added, gesturing to a group of nurses gathered behind her outside the hospital.

“We have no new COVID patients. No infected COVID patients. We still have some recovering COVID patients but they’re no longer infectious, which is a milestone.”

Morris said reaching the milestone was a relief and a testament to the work done by the unit.

“We’ve had many successes and we’ve had some very sad times, but to see that this is coming to an end is a relief to everyone, but also a big testimony to the work that’s gone on in this unit,” she said.

“We couldn’t have done it without the entire hospital, quite frankly.”

Morris said it was tough on all of the nurses who work in the unit because they were not only health-care providers but also became like family to patients whose relatives couldn’t visit them.

“These patients were not sick like any other patient we’ve ever seen. They were so much more sick. Also, to have to be able to support them emotionally and mentally when their families couldn’t come to see them, I think took a toll on the whole team,” she said.

She said the nurses really got to know the patients.

Dr. Clare Fielding, a nurse manager at the hospital, said the last patient who was infectious was cleared by the hospital’s infection prevention and control practitioners on Wednesday. That means that patient would have developed his or her infection more than 20 days ago. 

“They didn’t come today, they were cleared today. They are COVID free as of today,” she said.

Fielding said the milestone has left her feeling “cautious optimism.”

She added that many people are saying: “That’s great. Fingers crossed. Let’s hope.”

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