The Saskatchewan Health Authority confirmed reports from social media that a suspected gas leak had prompted the evacuation of all staff and patients from the Weyburn General Hospital this afternoon. 

"The SHA’s immediate priority is ensuring patient safety and we are actively coordinating with Weyburn Police Service, Weyburn Fire Department and SaskEnergy to manage this situation," the statement to the media read.

Weyburn Fire Chief Trent Lee was later able to confirm that the suspicious smell was not a gas leak, following an investigation by the Weyburn Fire Department. 

"At 11:30 this morning, our crews were dispatched to Weyburn General Hospital for the reports of a gas odor within the structure. Crews arrived on scene, and with the assistance of Sask. Energy, they scoured the whole building using different types of gas detection equipment to try to verify the source of the odor," Lee explained. "It was finally determined that a patient had come in contaminated with a crude oil substance, and that was producing the odor. That clothing was then bagged and tagged and removed from the building."

Lee stated that the smell was still extremely pungent even after removing the clothing, as the hospital's HVAC system was recirculating the odor throughout the building. He added that crude oil substances do produce incredibly powerful odors, and that fire crews will spend hours thoroughly verifying and re-verifying the source of suspicious odors in cases such as this.

A total of 22 patients were initially evacuated, with 19 remaining at care homes in the area while the rest were discharged or alternate arrangements were made. The 19 remaining on evacuation orders will be accommodated in place overnight while the investigation continues. 

According to a second release from the SHA, the services at the hospital, including the emergency department, remain on disruption. Anyone in the Weyburn area requiring urgent or emergent care is urged to call 9-1-1 or travel to the nearest hospital outside of Weyburn.

Fire trucks at the hospitalThe Weyburn Fire Department and Weyburn Police Service assisted with the evacuation of the Weyburn General Hospital after a gas leak was reported. (Photo by Mack Kohl)

The evacuation process was smooth, but harrowing, said one woman who was at the hospital at the time it happened. Not wanting to be identified, she said she was in the lab on the 4th floor when the code green sounded.

"The smell got stronger and stronger as we went down the stairs," she said, noting the smell was so strong it seemed like it was still on her clothes well after leaving the hospital.

The SHA issued a message of gratitude in their second release of the day, stating "The SHA would like to thank evacuated patients for their cooperation and understanding during this ongoing evacuation. We would also like to thank our staff, physicians, and paramedics for their quick response to ensure the safety of our patients and staff throughout this ongoing situation. We extend our thanks to the Weyburn Police Service, Weyburn Fire Department, and SaskEnergy for their support in coordinating the evacuation and ongoing investigation."

The SHA stated they would provide further updates, including when services are expected to resume, as more information becomes available.