As public health measures across Ontario begin to relax starting Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2022, COVID-19 specific policies and measures at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) will remain in place for the coming weeks.
According to a release from KHSC, the decision to keep its current COVID-19 policies is largely consistent in approach with many acute care hospitals in the province.
In the coming weeks, any policy changes will be informed by relevant data and science as the hospital organization works with their infection control experts to shape the best pandemic response for our community and region, according to the release.
“We know that this cautious approach does not align with quicker reopening plans in other community settings, but as a hospital, it is important for people to understand that we cannot revise or remove restrictions as quickly as the community,” said KHSC’s President and CEO, Dr. David Pichora. “Our mission to care for the sick and vulnerable means we must carefully monitor the impact of reopening on COVID-19 prevalence, outbreaks and hospital capacity in order to determine what and when changes to our COVID-19 policies can occur.”
Specifically, KHSC said that they continue to experience very high numbers of staff who are unable to work due to testing positive for COVID-19 themselves or having a positive family member at home.
Head of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Gerald Evans noted that KHSC’s response may not always align with other areas of the province, which could be experiencing different levels of active cases and hospitalizations in their communities.
“COVID-19 is still with us and the emergence of the Omicron variant reminded us that the virus can evolve quickly,” said Dr. Evans. “We must continue to practice extreme caution against COVID-19 within our hospital walls and be ready to respond as we transition to the next phase of the pandemic. Our first priority will always be the safety of our patients, families, visitors, staff and volunteers.”
To help ensure safety for all, KHSC said that they will continue to maintain key infection control precautions until at least the end of March 2022, as stated in the release, including:
- Mandatory proof of COVID-19 vaccination: “We know vaccination provides a critical layer of protection against COVID-19 by reducing transmission and negative outcomes,” KHSC stated. The hospital agency continues to require that all staff, physicians and volunteers be fully vaccinated and that all approved essential care partners show proof of full vaccination when screening at entrances.
- Limited family presence: Family presence in the two hospital sites will remain limited for the time being and KHSC said they are working with the infection prevention and control team to map out the timing and strategy to safely bring more people into the hospital. In the meantime, they continue to allow approved essential care providers, as well as a small number of exemptions to visitors for specific patient populations. To view the family presence guidelines visit their website.
- Hospital screening and access points: To ensure KHSC can continue to monitor access to the hospital, COVID-19 screening will remain in place for both staff and patients. Patients and families will continue to access the two hospital sites through the main entrance and must continue to register upon entry. Staff should continue to access the hospital through the two ‘staff entrances’ and answer screening questions upon arrival.
- Masking and physical distancing: Anyone entering KHSC sites must continue to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (i.e. masks for the public, additional PPE as directed by Infection control for staff) at all times, as well as practicing physical distancing and hand-washing.
“We appreciate the patience and understanding of both our staff and the public as we work to ensure our doors stay open to provide the acute and emergency care that people in our region expect us to deliver every day,” said Dr. Pichora. “We recognize that these policies, such as our current family presence policy, can be difficult for our patients and their families who want to be together while navigating their health care journey and we will relax these policies as soon as our expert teams determine it is safe to do so.”
In the meantime, patients with a cell phone or other device can stay in touch with others through phone calls and virtual visits. If a patient needs help with this, KHSC offers a free Staying Connected program where a trained staff member or volunteer will bring a cleaned, charged device to help facilitate a virtual visit, according to the release. If a patient or family member feels that an exemption should be made to allow a specific visitor into the hospital, they can contact their care team for more information.