The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) reported today that COVID-19 assessment centres are now open in Muskoka, one in Huntsville and one in Bracebridge, a day earlier than the health unit had expected.
They are not walk-in facilities—a referral from a family physician, nurse practitioner or Telehealth Ontario is required.
According to the SMDHU website, those experiencing symptoms and who do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner should call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-767-0000, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit at 1-877-721-7520 (Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. and weekends 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or access the Ministry of Health Self Assessment Tool. After following these steps, if you have been advised to go to a COVID-19 Assessment Centre in Muskoka, you must book an appointment by calling 1-888-383-7009 between 9:00
a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Not everyone who attends the centre will be tested, notes SMDHU. Testing is based on the most current guidelines from the Ministry of Health and the healthcare professional’s assessment of the individual. Testing is not available to all patients on request.
Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for SMDHU, said that with the assessment centres open, he expects “that there will be some increase in the number of tests showing cases in Muskoka [because] you’ll have more testing and the ability to find more cases.”
As of March 30, there have been six laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Muskoka, three of them in Huntsville. No new cases were reported today.
The process for managing patients who are referred to the assessment centres wasn’t available from the health unit. Dr. Gardner noted that other assessment centres have operated with drive-thrus to space people apart, or they have booked appointments for people so that there isn’t a line. The Huntsville assessment centre is located at Building B, 100 Frank Miller Drive.
The assessment centres have been established in partnership with Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare, Algonquin Family Health Team, Cottage Country Family Health Team, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, North Muskoka Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic, Muskoka Paramedic Services and The District Municipality of Muskoka.
Dr. Gardner said that the Province is “very actively pursuing increasing the volume of testing and shortening the turnaround time,” for test results. The lag time for test results received by the health unit has dropped from six days to 3.3, he noted. “But at this point, I think there is still some need for prioritization, focusing on those that are severe cases, those that are healthcare workers, those that are [in] long-term care facilities, also those living in remote communities where their access to healthcare would be much more limited, and people who are living in First Nations communities. The ideal of course would be that you could test liberally and test everybody who may be a case and there have been countries that have had success in reducing ultimately transmission but also severity of cases with the identification of all cases.”
In the health unit’s catchment area, Dr. Gardner noted that they are not yet seeing as many of the community-acquired cases of the virus as they should be. “We are only seeing the severe community-acquired cases for the most part because of the testing focus, those criteria I’ve listed, which tends to take you away from finding as many of the community-acquired cases. So there is a risk…that the public may not take as seriously the risk of community transmission if we don’t see as many of those cases as actually exist.”
For more local COVID-19 news and updates, check our regularly updated COVID-19 page here.
April 1, 2020 – this post was updated to include the hours during which you can call to book an appointment for the assessment centre.
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