Closure of COVID-19 test centre sign of 'light at the end of the tunnel'
Heron Road centre shut down as increasingly few people showed up for tests
Fifteen months after providing its first COVID-19 test, the Montfort Hospital's testing centre on Heron Road has now shut its doors — the first centre in Ottawa to take that step.
While Ottawans were lining up for more than three hours to get tested last summer, only 60 to 80 patients a day have been coming to the Heron COVID-19 Care and Testing Centre in recent weeks.
"A lot of people approach it with mixed emotions, and some people are unfortunately saddened or frustrated to see that we're closing, especially the local population around here," said Dr. Melanie Meehan, one of the lead doctors at the centre.
"But I think at the end of the day, this is the light at the end of the tunnel."
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In all, about 60,000 people have come through the centre's doors since it opened last year, according to the clinic manager.
But COVID-19 cases have been steeply declining in recent weeks, with 80 per cent of Ottawans aged 18 and up having received at least one vaccine dose as of Friday.
Given those sorts of numbers, the centre officially closed at 4 p.m. Thursday.
While people can still get tested elsewhere, Meehan said other testing centres in Ottawa will also consider reducing hours and staffing and eventually closing.
"This is good news. This means that everything that we've been working so hard to do together has been working, and we're looking at a ramp down in the entire region," Meehan said.
NEW:<br>80% of Ottawa residents aged 18+ have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. <br><br>Even on a stat holiday we aren’t slowing down. Thank you to all the staff who worked through the day yesterday to deliver vaccines! <br><br>Let’s keep this momentum going, Ottawa! <a href="https://t.co/waG6BCxrWC">pic.twitter.com/waG6BCxrWC</a>—@JimWatsonOttawa
For Mélina Thibault, a University of Ottawa nursing student who gained experience with patients by administering COVID-19 tests, the centre's closure is bittersweet.
"We're going to miss our colleagues. We're going to miss, you know, the clinic and everything," Thibault said.
"But it's definitely good news. It means that COVID might finally be ending soon."
In an email, the Ottawa COVID-19 Testing Task Force said no decisions have been made to close other assessment centres, and it would keep monitoring the demand for testing.
Public health officials are telling people to still follow health guidelines, especially with the emergence of the highly transmissible delta variant.
Those with only a single vaccine dose are less protected against that variant, which has contributed to spikes in cases in some parts of Ontario.
With files from Radio-Canada's Catherine Morasse