Although there is currently no threat of the Novel Coronavirus in Guelph, the Guelph General Hospital is taking precautions to reduce the chances of it spreading if an infected person was to walk through the doors.
There is a lot of public anxiety out there regarding the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, said Perry Hagerman, senior communications specialist with Guelph General Hospital (GGH).
Although it was named a public health emergency by the World Health Organization in January, only a few known cases have been identified so far in Canada and so far there has been no deaths as a result of COVID-19 in Canada.
“The challenge has always been to get members of the public to get their information from reliable sources. there is a lot of sensationalization going on out there,” said Hagerman. “If you think that in Canada 3,500 people die of the flu, and that isn’t making headlines.”
There has been some confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Toronto and London, as well as in other parts of Canada.
Currently, GGH has added large signs at its entrances asking people entering the building if they have flu-like symptoms AND have recently travelled to China or been in contact with someone who has.
Patients who answer yes to both questions meet the case definition for COVID-19 and require additional screening to ensure they don’t have the virus. To date, no one in Guelph has tested positive for it.
“They are there for self screening,” said Hagerman of the large signs. “The idea for those is that if you have a bit of a travel history and you have any flu-like symptoms, please mask before you walk any further into the building. It would be nice to catch people like that before they are deep in the emerg department being screened by the triage nurse.”
The large signs are put right in the path of people entering the hospital as a passive screening, said Bob Clayborne, director Laboratory Medicine, Infection Prevention and Control, Medical Device Reprocessing for GGH.
Then active screening is done by questionnaire in the Emergency Department, but also in areas like ambulatory care and day surgery.
“Then we are doing active screening at every registration point,” said Clayborne.
Hygiene stations have also been set up at all public entrances to the hospital.
GGH staff is also in communication with hospitals in surrounding municipalities, including Hamilton, Haldimand-Norfolk and Brant in an effort to compare notes.
“It’s almost like a support group,” said Clayborne. “Are we all doing the same thing? Are we screening appropriately?”
Hagerman said GGH’s also gets much of its information about the current state of COVID-19 from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
“They are doing a great job of keeping us well informed about what is happening both locally and abroad,” he said.
The hospital will also test people who are referred from their doctor because they meet the case definition.
“When they arrive here we are expecting them,” said Clayborne. “We give them a mask to put on and put them in airborne droplet contact precaution, which is essentially a negative pressure room, and then staff going in there need to wear eye protection and an mask, gloves and a gown.”
Clayborne said those same precautions would also be put in place in reaction to disseminated shingles or tuberculosis, for example, and weren't created only in response to COVID-19.
The patient is then assessed and specimens are taken if a decision is made to test them.
“They are referred here because that’s the only means of testing right now, is via the Public Health Ontario laboratory and they have to come from a hospital,” said Calyborne.
Hospital staff also receives constant information bulletins about the virus to keep them informed.
“We need our staff to be well informed, for sure,” said Hagerman.
Hagerman said the hospital is expending a lot of effort to be well prepared, should anything happen.