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More than 1,000 visits to COVID-19 Assessment Centre in first week

March 26, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Written By MIKE BAKER

More than 1,000 individuals have visited the new drive-thru COVID-19 assessment clinic at Headwaters Health Care Centre since it was opened last Thursday (March 19). 

The facility, currently open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., assesses local residents who may be showing mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19. There are two lanes available, which people can drive their car into, with all assessments carried out on-site. 

Assessments take approximately 15 minutes, says Gary Staples, Deputy Chief of the Dufferin County Paramedic Service. Upon arrival, individuals will be asked to fill out a ‘screening sheet’, which staff will then use to determine whether they need to be tested. Should an individual require testing, they will be asked to register and pull into one of the drive-thru tents. A member of the care team will then assess them while they remain in their vehicle. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, and the severity of symptoms, individuals will be told to self-isolate, or visit the emergency department. 

While the testing process is fairly simple, and it can take between five and seven days for results to come back. Tests are carried out locally, then sent down to Toronto for analysis to determine whether or not the patient has COVID-19. 

“As more assessment clinics become open in our area, the testing centre is being overwhelmed with the number of swabs coming in. As such, there will likely be a backlog in following up with these people,” Mr. Staples told the Citizen. 

As per Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, there are now three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our region – one each in Dufferin County, Guelph and Wellington County. 

Looking more closely at the numbers here in Orangeville, as of end of day Tuesday (March 24), the site has seen 1,041 visitors, with 954 of those visits leading to assessments. A total of 289 people have been tested for COVID-19. 

Mr. Staples said the local healthcare community is already seeing the benefits brought about by opening the assessment centre.

“The most important thing for us right now is that we are diverting traffic away from the emergency department, so that they can handle regular emergencies,” Mr. Staples said. “We are seeing minor to moderate patients, maybe some have symptoms but not so severe that they need to go to emergency.”

He added, “The biggest benefit of the drive-thru is that people stay in their cars the entire time. If they are infected with COVID-19, or any other kind of infection, like the flu or a cold, they are not getting out of their car and coming into contact with all the other people that are around. That’s a positive thing.”

In a letter distributed to media on Tuesday, local doctor Jill Bailey said the Assessment Centre has two goals – to determine how sick a patient may be, and to swab patients for COVID-19 who meet current Ministry criteria.

The criteria, as of this week, are; symptoms of an upper respiratory tract viral infection to go along with close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, or essential health or community service provider, or living in a retirement home or other institutional setting. People who are currently living on a First Nation reserve and are showing symptoms are also being swabbed.

“So, why can’t we test everyone?” Dr. Bailey writes. “The simple fact is that all of Ontario is presently short on swabs and the supplies needed to analyze them. The Ministry of Health mandate for limited swabbing is not ideal, but it’s our currently reality. Until we come up with an innovative solution to develop more testing supplies, we are left with this very limited ability to test.”

She added, “It would be ideal if we could swab the 30-year-old father who works at a local restaurant and doesn’t know that the person he sat beside on the bus had COVID-19. Now he has a runny nose and a sore throat. He doesn’t get a swab. It would be ideal if we could swab the 75-year-old woman with COPD, who lives alone and often needs to user puffers, who has a low-grade fever and a worsening cough. She doesn’t get a swab. 

Just because someone may not be swabbed at an assessment centre, does not mean they do not have COVID-19 – it just means they don’t qualify for a swab based on the criteria outlined by the Ministry. While Dr. Bailey admits “as physicians, we want to swab every possible COVID-19 case” that’s not feasible due to the low supply of test supplies.

“The message we want to send to the public is that, if you have respiratory symptoms, such as cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, shortness of breath, you need to assume that you have the COVID-19 virus. If you go to the Headwaters Assessment Centre and do not get offered a swab, do not think that the doctor doesn’t think you are infected with the COVID-19 virus. You very well could be,” Dr. Bailey said.

She called on all residents to follow self-isolation guidelines outlined by health care professionals and both the federal and provincial government. 

“Please take your doctor or public health nurse’s advice seriously. We are trying to save the life of your 95-year-old grandfather who you were thinking about visiting later, or the grocery clerk who has asthma whom you were going to interact with on the way home,” Dr. Bailey said. “If you are unwell, even if you don’t get a swab in the COVID-19 Assessment Centre, stay home. Don’t leave the house unless you need to go to the emergency room.”

She concluded, “Don’t do it just for yourself or your family, do it for everyone in our community. We all have to work together to beat this.”



         

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