Kitchener hospitals set up coronavirus testing clinics to keep potential cases away from ER

Grand River Hospital has set up a separate area in the hospital to test patients who may have COVID-19 and keep them away from the emergency room. St. Mary's Hospital says their clinic will be open later this week.

Patients need an appointment, it’s not a walk-in clinic, hospital officials say

Grand River Hospital has set up a separate area of the hospital for COVID-19 screening, but officials stressed it is not a walk-in clinic. (CBC)

Grand River Hospital is taking steps to keep patients being tested for coronavirus out of the emergency room.

Hospital officials say they've worked with Region of Waterloo Public Health to set up this temporary solution.

"This is not a walk-in clinic," Cheryl Evans, manager of communications and engagement for the hospital, told CBC K-W. "Patients should have either first been screened and determined to need an appointment for testing by the emergency department, by public health or through their family physician in consultation with public health."

Evans said the hospital, St. Mary's General Hospital and public health are working toward a plan for testing in a community space.

The move to have testing in another part of the hospital protects patients who are there for another health concern as well as staff.

St. Mary's Hospital also has plans to set up a separate clinic this week.

"By opening temporary testing clinics within the hospitals to see patients routed for testing through public health's phone line, we hope to alleviate pressure on our emergency departments," a statement from hospital officials said.

There is currently one case of COVID-19 in Waterloo region. The patient, a woman in her 50s, is self-isolating at home.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital said in an email it is also considering a testing clinic and will notify the public about the location and hours. 

Hospital spokesperson Stephan Beckhoff said if people believe they have the virus, they should first call public health or go to their family doctor.

"This will allow some advanced screening and public health can contact the hospital in advance to notify someone is coming in for testing," Beckhoff said.

Get testing out of ERs: Fife

On Tuesday, Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife called on the province to do more to keep COVID-19 testing out of hospital emergency rooms. She said she's heard from two doctors in Kitchener who were concerned about patient safety.

"To quote the emergency physician: 'We know COVID-19 will kill the eldest and the sickest patients in a higher amount than the general population. So when your grandmother goes to the emergency room for a fainting spell, she is putting herself at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 purely because she is in the location where patients are forced to be screened,'" Fife said, reading out a letter from one of the doctors during question period.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is working with hospitals and healthcare workers to have "appropriate test centres."

Centre planned in Guelph

Guelph General Hospital is taking the lead and preparing to launch an assessment centre for coronavirus cases, officials with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health said. That will involve staffing and infrastructure from the hospital, primary care partners and public health.

Details on when the centre will be set up are expected in the near future.

There are currently no cases in that area.

"Testing is still available for those whose physician or who the hospital consider it necessary. WDG Public Health continues to do surveillance of COVID-19 potential cases," said communications manager Chuck Ferguson.

Region of Waterloo Public Health is working on next steps, said Julie Kalbfleisch, manager of information and communications.

"In collaboration with our hospitals, we are working with them on developing plans to ensure increased health system capacity to assess clients who may have COVID-19, including in community settings. We will keep the community updated on our plans," she said.


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