MONTREAL -- Health authorities have confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 among emergency room staff at St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal that began Tuesday, and that spread to more than a dozen partially-vaccinated employees.

The news comes as a shock for everyone, including the staff who remain on the floor.

“We’re all exhausted, devastated,” said Joanne Scullion, a licensed practical nurse and union representative with the FIQ.

Fourteen employees have tested positive and all have either mild or no symptoms, according to Hélène Bergeron-Gamache, a spokesperson for the CIUSSS West Island.

"In accordance with public health guidelines, employees who tested positive were immediately removed from work," Bergeron-Gamache wrote in an email statement, adding that they have been sent home to isolate.

Nurses, doctors and a clerical worker have tested positive.


According to the union, staff had been vaccinated back in January with a first dose, and were waiting to get a second dose of the vaccine. Many were scheduled to get it this week.

Public health has said a second dose is required to be considered fully vaccinated.

It’s not yet known whether a variant of the virus is to blame. The INSPQ said it takes several days to complete genomic sequencing to determine if a variant is involved, but noted most cases of COVID-19 in Quebec were now caused by variants of the virus.

For staff, the outbreak raises frustrations about delays in getting the second shot, which has been pushed to four months from the initial dose in Quebec. Across the country, doctors have been reporting hospitalizations in people who are partially vaccinated.

One staff member who wanted to remain anonymous, because she wasn't authorized to speak to the media, said the outbreak has dealt a blow to an already understaffed emergency department, and is causing serious delays in admissions, since those coming from the emergency room now have to be placed in isolation.


Health officials said close to 100 staff, as well as patients, in the emergency room have been tested, and infection control measures have been heightened.

No patients are reported to have tested positive in relation to the outbreak so far, and it’s not yet known how the outbreak began.

Officials say the emergency room will be able to keep running, but ask anyone who may be thinking of accompanying a loved one in hospital to stay home in order to limit exposure.