A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared in unit 4B of Kelowna General Hospital. It had one of the lowest rates of compliance with hand-washing regulations last fall, according to an audit done by Interior Health.

The unit of Kelowna General Hospital where a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Monday had one of the facility's lowest rates of hand-washing.

Four patients and one staff associated with Unit 4B have tested positive for COVID-19, Interior Health says.

Patients from the unit are being relocated to the hospital unit specifically set up to treat COVID-19 patients.

"There is no evidence of COVID-19 transmission to other areas of the hospital at this time," stated an IH release.

"Outbreak control measures are in place and a team of infection control and communicable disease specialists, along with KGH clinical staff and leaders, are meeting daily to contain the outbreak," IH says.

The hospital remains open and people are encouraged to keep their appointments and use the emergency room if necessary. Self-isolation or COVID-19 testing is not required after visiting the hospital, IH says.

Although the outbreak is a first for KGH, there have been COVID-19 outbreaks at B.C. hospitals and other health care settings throughout the ongoing pandemic.

As of Feb. 6, there had been 277 outbreaks of COVID-19 at care facilities around B.C., affecting 3,151 residents and 2,127 staff. Of the 5,238 people at care facilities who'd been infected to that date, 909 people - all of them residents - had died

Interior Health auditors routinely track compliance with hand hygiene regulations throughout KGH and other hospitals.

In the most recent period for which information is available, from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, the overall rate of hand hygiene compliance in acute care departments at KGH was 92%.

The highest rate, at 97%, was in the perinatal unit; the lowest rate, at 75%, was in the cardiac care unit.

The rate in the 4B unit, where the COVID-19 outbreak has been declared, was 89%, fourth lowest among the 20 KGH units where hand-washing auditors made a total of 2,388 observations between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31.

Compared to the previous quarter in 2020, from July 1st to Sept. 30, hand hygiene compliance rates rose in 14 KGH departments and declined in three departments. No information on trends was provided for the other three departments.

"Hand hygiene rates are based on observations of staff practicing hand hygiene before or after patient care, as seen by auditors," the IH website states.