The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

2003 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

HOW SEVERE ACUTE RESPIRATORY SYNDROME (SARS) CHANGED RESPIRATORY THERAPY PRACTICE

1. Mary Dawson, RRCP/RRT (C), (A) Charge Therapist Emergency Department, Medical/Surgical Units

2. Cynthia Harris RRCP/RRT Charge Therapist Adult ICU Department of Respiratory Therapy Mount Sinai Hospital 600 University Avenue Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1X5 Ph: 416-586-5009

Mount Sinai Hospital is a university-affiliated teaching hospital and tertiary referral center for ARDS pneumonia. In March 2003, the Respiratory Therapy Department at MSH was brought to its knees by a new, previously unknown virulent virus: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome "SARS". SARS is known to be highly infectious and it is thought that the virus is spread by contact with droplets or by contact with objects contaminated by respiratory secretions. SARS is unique in that it spreads rapidly and large numbers of health care workers have been infected. One of the first SARS patients in Canada was transferred to our ICU and within 48 hours 65 ICU staff (RN, MD, RRCP) were exposed and sent home quarantined. A number of them went on to develop SARS. All respiratory related practice had to be reviewed and change needed to be implemented immediately. The purpose of this poster is to describe one department's experience with the challenges represented by a major infectious outbreak. Some of those challenges were environmental (isolation of all patients, hospital lockdown), therapeutic/practice changes (how to humidify oxygen, ventilation, how to perform high-risk procedures safely), human resource issues (short-staffing due to quarantines) and psychosocial issues (morale, fear of becoming ill). Despite unprecedented staffing shortages, immense fear of the unknown and hourly protocol changes, the department rose to the challenge, worked as a team and survived one of the most incredible experiences in the history of this hospital and city.

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