KHSC announces next phase of COVID-19 de-escalation plan

Kingston General Hospital, a KHSC site. Photo by Lucas Mulder/Kingstonist.

Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) is continuing with its COVID-19 staged de-escalation plan, announcing the implementation of the next phase on Monday, Jul. 17, 2023.

According to a release from KHSC, universal masking is no longer mandatory in the Emergency Department (ED), Children’s Outpatient Clinic (COPC), or the Urgent Care Centre (UCC) for staff, patients, or visitors. In place of universal masking, staff will conduct a point-of-care risk assessment prior to interacting with patients to determine if and what personal protective equipment (PPE) is required.

“The ED, UCC and COPC have seen very low numbers of active COVID-19 cases over the last six weeks,” said Dr. Gerald Evans, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at KHSC. “We will continue to actively screen patients for acute respiratory illness and implement use of PPE when individuals with respiratory infections are identified. This has helped to keep patients and staff safe during this ongoing transition phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The health care organization stated that masks remain mandatory for patients who have respiratory symptoms. Routine masking remains strongly recommended in areas that provide care to patients who are at higher risk for more serious outcomes from COVID-19 infection, and in areas where acutely ill patients who may be infectious arrive to be assessed including:

  • At the triage desks in the ED, UCC and COPC
  • Inpatient Oncology
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Dialysis clinics
  • Oncology clinics

“At present, we continue to see unprecedented low levels of COVID-19 infection in our community as measured by wastewater monitoring, community outbreaks, and test positivity. This is due to a number of factors including high levels of hybrid immunity from vaccination plus prior infection within the general population, and the predicted seasonality of respiratory Coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2,” Dr. Evans explained.

“KHSC will continue to support all individuals in their decision to wear a mask if they choose, and staff will be expected to automatically don a mask when caring for patients who wear one. In turn, healthcare workers may also ask a patient to wear a mask as part of their risk assessment process.”

KHSC shared that the following will not change:

  • All individuals will be supported in their decision to wear a mask.
  • Everyone will continue to have access to masks upon entry, as well as in all clinical areas.
  • Staff will be expected to don a mask when caring for patients who are wearing a mask.
  • Healthcare workers may ask a patient to mask as part of their point of care risk assessment.
  • Masks remain required for patients entering our hospital sites with respiratory symptoms.
  • Caregivers or visitors with infectious symptoms must postpone their visit until their symptoms have improved. If it is necessary for the caregiver to be present, then the caregiver is required to mask during their time inside the hospital.
  • Staff, caregivers and visitors will continue to have access to all personal protective equipment where required.

KHSC noted that infectious disease experts will continue to monitor key COVID-19 indicators in our region and may also choose to re-instate COVID measures, such as mandatory masking, in the future if required.

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