Ottawa hospital ward quarantined

A rash of cases involving the bacteria that causes staph infections forced the Ottawa Hospital yesterday to quarantine its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on the General campus.



Dr. Brigitte Lemyre, the acting chief of the neonatal unit, said the unit will stop admitting new patients and is likely to be closed for up to two weeks.



Lemyre said 10 of 21 infants in the NICU had either shown symptoms of infection or been "colonized" by Staphylococcus aureus – meaning the bacteria has been found on the skin but has not infected the body.

Since babies in the NICU are already experiencing health problems and require ventilators or IVs, they are at higher risk of developing infections that must be treated with antibiotics.

The Ottawa Hospital is working with the NICU at the Civic Campus and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario to accommodate new admissions, but Lemyre said both those hospitals have limited capacity for new patients.

New deliveries could be redirected to hospitals in Kingston or Toronto, if required.

The closure of the NICU affects less than five per cent of deliveries at the hospital, since most newborns do not require intense care.

Around 400 babies per year start their lives in the 24-bed NICU that specializes in caring for premature babies weighing less than 1,000 grams.


  • About 30 per cent of the population — including infants — carries the staph bacteria on their skin and in their noses, but it was alarming to find that nearly half of the babies in the unit carried the bacteria.