KHSC updates masking policy to include all inpatient areas

Hotel Dieu Hospital site. Photo by Phillip Stafford/Kingstonist.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) has updated masking requirements beyond what was originally introduced earlier this month. Masking is now required in all inpatient areas of the hospital system.

“This decision was guided by multiple sources including analysis of provincial and regional COVID-19 data which are all now at levels that suggest a higher potential for transmission of COVID-19 in health care settings,” said Dr. Gerald Evans, Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC). “In southeastern Ontario, after falling to one per cent during the early and mid-summer, test positivity is now over 10 per cent, outbreak numbers, which for many months were in the single digits, are now at 15, and wastewater detection of SARS-CoV-2 in the southeast has shown rises particularly in KFLA.”

On Sept. 7, 2023, KHSC stated that masks were again mandatory in the Emergency Department, Urgent Care Centre, and the Children’s Outpatient Clinic at its hospitals, and “strongly recommended” masking on other units managing patients at high risk. Now, the health care organization has expanded that mandate to include all inpatient areas, with a strong recommendation for masking at the Renal Dialysis on Burr 3 and in Oncology clinics.

“There is some evidence that we may be at a peak now and we are hopeful this will be a short-term return to masking,” Dr. Evans continued. “Test positivity, wastewater detection and outbreaks in congregate setting levels are high but now showing some stability and other countries including the U.S. are predicting a peak or reporting early post-peak levels of COVID-19. We understand this is a challenging decision, however, we must ensure a safe environment for every person who comes here to receive care, work, volunteer, or learn.”

On its website, KHSC noted that all individuals will be supported in their decision to wear a mask, and that staff will be expected to don a mask when caring for patients who are wearing a mask. As well, healthcare workers may ask a patient to mask as part of their point of care risk assessment, and masks — which are available throughout the hospital system — remain required for patients entering hospital sites with respiratory symptoms.

According to KHSC, there has been an increase in the number of staff who have high-risk exposure to COVID-19 positive patients on inpatient units, some of whom have subsequently developed COVID-19. “Mandatory masking will reduce the number of COVID-19 transmissions, high-risk exposures, and the need for workplace isolation for staff when COVID-19 prevalence is high,” said Natasha Salt, IPAC Director.

For more details, visit the KHSC website.

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