Hospitals allowed to gradually restart services

Late yesterday, the Ministry of Health issued a directive to allow hospitals to gradually restart services that had been postponed due to COVID-19, including the resumption of non-urgent and elective surgeries and diagnostic tests.

“Now that the Ministry is easing restrictions on hospital services, we are looking forward to working with physicians to address the growing list of scheduled health care services that had been postponed,” said GBHS President and CEO Gary Sims. “We will not return to full services immediately – services will resume in phases over several weeks, and it will not be business as usual for some time.”

A gradual resumption of services will allow GBHS to ensure a number of provincial conditions are met as staff and physicians work to restore services, including: a sustained commitment to support long-term-care; adequate supplies of personal protective equipment; enough supplies of drugs for surgeries; the ability to quickly reduce services if a surge in COVID-19 occurs; and options for delivering care in new ways, including virtually.

GBHS will open up additional Operating Room time in Owen Sound and Meaford. Outpatient procedures such as endoscopies will resume in Owen Sound, Meaford, Southampton and Wiarton over the coming days. Patients will hear directly from their surgeons’ office about their new appointment times. Diagnostic tests, including CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds, will begin to be re-scheduled. The most urgent cases will be scheduled first.

The risk of exposure to COVID-19 within a GBHS hospital is very low. The last patient treated in hospital with the virus was discharged in mid-April. However, as a precaution, there are a number of measures in place to ensure patient and staff safety.

Wear a Mask When Visiting a GBHS Hospital

· All individuals coming into a GBHS hospital are strongly encouraged to bring their own face covering/mask. These can be homemade masks or face coverings such as a scarf or buff, or commercially purchased items. Anyone who arrives in hospital without a mask will be given a disposable mask. The public is reminded to conserve supplies of N95 masks and procedure masks for health care workers.

Maintain Physical Distancing

· All patients will be asked to respect physical distancing requirements while in hospital. This will be challenging in some patient care areas, and masks will provide an additional layer of protection.

Visitor Restrictions in Place

· To reduce crowding and support physical distancing, visitors are still prohibited until further notice. Exceptions will be made for special circumstances.

· Patients are asked to come into the hospitals alone, unless they require support.

Arrival Time

· Please arrive no earlier than 15 minutes prior to your appointment to reduce the volume in waiting areas, and help with physical distancing.

Labs Shifting to Pre-booked Appointments, No Walk-ins

· To reduce crowding in GBHS lab waiting areas at all hospitals, starting in mid-June, appointments must be pre-booked.

Virtual Visits

· During this pandemic, some services have been offered virtually through Ontario Telemedicine Network and other platforms. Wherever possible, virtual visits will continue to be offered.

Stay Informed

· Check the GBHS website for regular updates on the types of services being offered during this transition period.