Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay hospital looks to increase visitor restrictions due to COVID-19

The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will look at changing restrictions for visitors at the facility because of COVID-19.
The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is looking at implementing further restrictions on visitor access on Thursday. (Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre)

The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will look at changing restrictions for visitors at the facility because of COVID-19.

Currently, the hospital has limited patients to one visitor, who is subject to a screening questionnaire when entering the hospital.

However, that practice could change by Thursday.

Increased visitor restrictions pending

"We are preparing for increased visitor restrictions to enhance the safety of patients and health care staff," said Tracie Smith, a spokesperson for the hospital.

 St. Joseph's Care Group, another health care provider in Thunder Bay, has already suspended visitors to its facilities.

"This is a further restriction to protect our health care staff, and protect our patients who are here already," said Dr. Stewart Kennedy, the Incident Manager at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

"We know this [COVID-19] is in the community." he said.  "Each time a visitor comes to our hospital, it puts our staff and our patients at risk."

Kennedy said data shows that up to 30 per cent of health care workers could get COVID-19, which means retired physicians, nurses and family doctors could be called on by the hospital to assist, if and when patients are hospitalized in Thunder Bay.

Exceptions for palliative care, delivering a baby

"So, we must limit further visitor restrictions. Of course there will be exceptions," for patients in palliative care, or in labour and delivery, said Kennedy.

"We are going to be more aggressive with our visitor policy," he said, noting that the more restrictive rules on visitation could be announced on Thursday.

"Soon, we are going to add to our questionnaire about travel outside of northwestern Ontario," which could include telling people who are in the city from the Toronto or Ottawa areas not to come to the hospital.

"It's coming to preserve exposure to our hospital and to our healthcare workers."

Kennedy said there is a recognition that business must go on at the hospital, but the idea is to minimize people entering the facility.

He said the hospital is also looking at, if necessary,  using sites other than the main hospital campus to host patients.