Enhanced COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre Now Open at NHH for Patients with Worsening Symptoms Due to COVID-19

In Editor Choice, Local

Team relocated from trailer outside NHH Emergency Department to expand and enhance Assessment services as regional need rises.

The Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH) COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre came full circle this week when it moved from the trailer outside the Emergency Department to the same space it
opened in almost two years ago: the Ambulatory Care Unit immediately inside the hospital’s main entrance (Thursday, Janaury 13, 2022).

With ongoing support from a multidisciplinary team of NHH staff, area primary care providers, and Ontario Health Team of Northumberland partners, the expanded NHH COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre service is now offering a mix of virtual and in person supports in an expanded and easier-to-access one-stop-shop model.

Designed to bring additional clinical assessment services and support to a very specific patient cohort—those experiencing a worsening of symptoms from known or suspected infection with COVID-19—the enhanced Centre also continues to serve those with influenza-like symptoms and concerns and coordinates local PCR testing for those who are eligible. In future, as treatment options for COVID-19 gain Health Canada approval, the expanded Centre is also well positioned to add treatments to its list of services as well.

“NHH has been operating a COVID-19 assessment and testing site since the very early days of Wave 1,” said Susan Walsh, NHH President and CEO.

“Ontario Health reached out to existing centres on December 31st with an urgent request to expand the assessment services offered,” she explained.

“We quickly formed a working group and today’s announcement is the result. From a system perspective, our goal is to sustain current COVID-19 services, like testing of high-risk and vulnerable populations, while also integrating new virtual and in-person clinical supports from specially trained nurses and primary care providers to better help those with known or suspected infection with COVID-19, and conserving capacity in Emergency Departments.”

“Given what we now know about Omicron, we’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” adds Dr. Erin Pepper, Assessment Centre physician lead.

“While Northumberland saw lower cases of COVID-19 infections in earlier waves with previous variants, Omicron cases, unfortunately, are on the rise. People, particularly those who are not vaccinated, and those with other complicating factors, like age or pre-existing chronic conditions, are getting sick. Without alternate resources, Emergency Departments could be overwhelmed. We hope it will not be necessary, but our enhanced service aims to take pressure off area Emergency Departments by offering a specialized, one-stop shop for those who need help with worsening COVID-19 symptoms. At the same time we want to offer additional support for those who just have questions, such as a parent of a child with influenza-like symptoms. To that end, we’re offering one local number to call where we will help you or get you the COVID-related help that you need.”

The staff mix within the expanded Centre is comprised of navigators, nurses and primary care providers (doctors and nurse practitioners). Accessed through the Centre’s existing 1-905-377-7783 phone line, the team will provide support by phone and, as required, in person. On the recommendation of the NHH Patient and Family Advisory Council, additional phone capacity, including a toll-free dial-in, is being investigated. All callers are ‘triaged’ through the navigators who will pose a series of questions and direct the caller as appropriate. Virtual consults with regional specialists will also be incorporated, as required, allowing the team to ‘flex up’ should need arise.

Location, contact information and hours of operation
The NHH COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre is currently located inside the main entrance of Northumberland Hills Hospital at 1000 DePalma Drive, Cobourg in the Ambulatory Care Clinic. Hours of operation are from 8AM to 4PM. It is recommended that all patients call 905-377-7783 for assessment prior to arriving on site. Walk-in patients will be accepted. Enter via the main front entrance during the hours noted above. In all urgent situations, patients are encouraged to call 911 or go directly to the nearest Emergency Department.

Universal masking requirement and NO FOOD/DRINK
All patients accessing the Centre will be required to don a mask. Masks will be provided on entry. Food and drink will be strictly prohibited. The COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre wait area has been designated a ‘quiet area’ to minimize talking/interaction and, with it, risk of close contact. Physical distancing measures will be maintained with support from the NHH Screeners who support the hospital team at the main front entrance to the hospital/Centre.
For the latest information on COVID-19, including links to related resources, please see the COVID section on the hospital’s website, nhh.ca/covid-19


Frequently Asked Questions and Answers NHH COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre

Q. How do I access the service?
A. Call 1-905-377-7783 to speak to a COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre navigator. The Centre is open 8AM to 4PM. You will be directed as appropriate and, if deemed appropriate,
scheduled with an appointment to come to the Centre for an Assessment or test. Note that the NEW entrance for the NHH COVID-19 Assessment Centre is through the main entrance at 1000
DePalma Drive. Walk-ins are also accepted, but we recommend you call the Centre first if able, to minimize the number of individuals arriving at any one time. Note that assessment does not
necessarily mean testing will be required. Testing will be provided based on eligibility and clinical assessment.

Q. Is my family doctor aware of this enhanced service?
A. Health care providers (such as area family physicians, nurse practitioners or Telehealth nurses) are currently being provided with information on our enhanced service and will be encouraged to refer individuals for assessment, reducing burden on local primary care and focusing specialized skills in one Centre. A ‘typical’ referral could be an individual whose symptoms are not improving on their own, COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed and further assessment and closer assessment/monitoring by a health care professional may be required.

Q. The previous NHH COVID-19 Assessment Centre, in the trailer, did not accept walk-ins. Are walk-ins accepted now?
A. Yes, walk-ins will be accepted. That said, it is recommended that patients or their care providers call the Centre first to speak with a navigator to confirm that a visit to the Centre is required. We will be working hard to schedule appointments in such a way that physical distance within the Centre can be maintained at all times. In all urgent situations, the same rule applies: call 911 or go directly to the nearest Emergency Department.

Q. I thought that testing was being limited to only ‘high risk’ individuals and vulnerable people? Can anyone get a COVID-19 test now at NHH?
A. Ontario recently updated its COVID-19 testing guidelines, to ensure publicly funded testing and case and contact management resources are focused on the highest-risk settings to protect the most vulnerable and to help keep critical services running. The NHH COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre will continue to administer testing based on the province’s testing guidelines. We realize that many have questions. Assessments are primarily intended for those with worsening symptoms due to known or suspected COVID-19 but consultation will be available to anyone with a question or concern—for example, for the parent of a child with influenza-like symptoms–through our navigators. Call the Centre at 1-905-377-7783. We are here to help or we will do our best to get you the help you need.

Q. COVID-19 seems to have a lot of different symptoms. Where can I get a current list of COVID-19 symptoms?
A. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 that require immediate self-isolation and, if eligible, COVID-19 testing include:

• Fever (temperature of 37.8°C/100.0°F or greater) and/or chills

• Cough (that is new or worsening (e.g. continuous, more than usual if chronic cough) including croup (barking cough, making a whistling noise when breathing)
– Not related to other known causes or conditions for which current symptoms do not represent a flare-up/exacerbation related to infection (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

• Shortness of breath (dyspnea, out of breath, unable to breathe deeply, wheeze, that is worse than usual if chronically short of breath)
– Not related to other known causes or conditions (e.g., chronic heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
• Decrease or loss of smell or taste

– Not related to other known causes or conditions (e.g., nasal polyps, allergies, neurological disorders)

For a complete listing of all symptoms associated with COVID-19, including the latest updates, please refer to the Ministry of Health COVID website here.

Q. I tested positive for COVID-19 on a rapid antigen test. My symptoms are mild, they do not seem to be getting worse and I’m not actually that sick. Should I call the Centre or go in for Assessment?
A. No. The COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre is primarily intended for those with worsening symptoms due to known or suspected COVID-19. It is not intended for patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms who can self-isolate and self-monitor at home, per the latest provincial guidance, or who can be monitored safely by their primary care provider (family physician or nurse practitioner). That said, if you are not sure, or if you have concerns or questions about influenza-like illness, call the Centre and one of our navigators will help you assess your current symptoms and determine next steps.

Q. My son is 3 and has flu-like symptoms. I’m worried it’s either COVID or strep throat. I can’t get find any rapid antigen tests and I do not have a doctor. Can I bring him in for assessment?
A. Yes, NHH’s COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre is for patients with worsening symptoms due to COVID-19 and those with influenza-like illness and concerns, particularly those without
an area doctor or who have been unable to get an appointment. Please call the Assessment Centre line and speak to one of our navigators for advice. If required, a primary care provider on
our team can provide an assessment.

Q. My partner/child/parent seems really sick, and it seems to me they’re getting worse not better. What should I do?
A. The COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Centre is not intended for patients with very severe COVID-19 symptoms. These individuals should continue to call 911 or go directly to the nearest Emergency Department for urgent care.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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