Muskoka Algonquin Health Care (MAHC), along with community partners, is monitoring developments surrounding the COVID-19 virus closely and is in the process of creating two assessment centres—one in Huntsville and one in Bracebridge.
“We need approval from Ontario Health to open them but we’re hoping and expecting that may happen next week to get both of these assessment [centres]up, and we are doing this in partnership with both Family Health Teams and EMS [Emergency Medical Services],” explained Terry Shields, chief financial officer, and acting CEO for MAHC, which manages both the Huntsville and Bracebridge hospitals.
The assessment centre in Huntsville would be located on the hospital grounds and in Bracebridge somewhere in the community because there’s not enough room on the existing hospital site, according to staff.
Asked what measures have been put in place so far, Shields said anyone visiting the hospital is being screened by staff and asked a series of questions including their travel history and whether they’ve got any symptoms. “Everyone must clean their hands and if they’re unwell or they’ve travelled they must wear a mask,” he noted. “This is obviously leading to some delays getting into the hospital so we’re asking people to be patient as we make sure we do the best we can to protect their safety.”
In the interim, if those visiting hospital do present with symptoms, they may be directed to a separate area in the ER department where a test would be conducted. “And based on… how they are presenting, how acute they are, they can be admitted by the physician or they can be discharged to wait for the results from Public Health at home,” said Shields.
Hospital patients with more acute symptoms who are suspected of being infected by the virus will be placed in a negative pressure room and hospital staff attending to those patients will be wearing protective gear to ensure their safety, he said.
Asked how many patients could be safely accommodated at MAHC before the organization starts bursting at the seams, Shields said, “Right now we have not seen a large volume of patients coming in at all, that’s why it’s very, very important to get the assessment centres up and running. The last thing we want to do is overwhelm the hospital with this type of situation going on so we’re hoping to get the assessment centres cleared, meaning that approval, and once that approval is granted we’ll have them up and running, probably within 48 hours.”
Again in terms of capacity, Shields said MAHC is working with the province and community partners to make sure that additional capacity is created if needed. “As you know, we don’t have long-term care beds here, we have acute-care beds and we’re looking at how we can make sure the number of beds that we have can be expanded within a safe area with all the required equipment to operate those beds safely.” Shields would not venture on the number of beds that might be available if the virus spreads here but said, “that’s an ever-changing number and we continue to monitor that every single day.”
He also said it is expected that most of those who do acquire the virus will not have acute symptoms and can isolate at home. “So you’re not going to come and get your test and then come into the hospital for 14 days, that’s not going to happen. You’re going to get tested… and then you can go isolate at home for 14 days if you require.”
In the eventuality that services—like elective surgeries, for example—may have to be rationalized as a result of a large influx of people requiring acute care as a result of the virus, Shields said, “We’re just not at that point right now where we have to cancel any elective surgeries or limit any type of ambulatory care program, but that is on the table and we’ll see what transpires in the community because we’re going to need some kind of community infection to have ramifications like that on the hospital,” said Shields, reiterating that monitoring is ongoing.
Asked how MAHC is doing for supplies, Shields said so far the health organization is in a good position. “The Ministry of Health is working on the supply chain to make sure that all the impacted areas are prioritized to make sure that they can receive the materials that they need.”
Shields highlighted the importance of washing one’s hands and ensuring that if you are sneezing or coughing that you do so in a Kleenex or into your arm so that you’re not spreading your germs. If you are unsure about how to proceed if you’re not feeling well, Telehealth is a good resource at 1-866-797-0000. You can also find information about the virus on the hospital’s website here and from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit here.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!