By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Following recent reinstatement of public visitation privileges to its 2A Medical/Surgical unit after a COVID-19 outbreak, another surge in cases has forced Northumberland Hills Hospital to institute a temporary suspension of visits to its Restorative Care Unit.
The move was made in consultation with the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit, NHH Infection Prevention and Control leads, hospital staff and members of its Patient and Family Advisory Council.
As of Sept. 20, five active cases were discovered among admitted inpatients on that unit. Across the hospital as a whole (including these five), there are currently eight admitted patients with COVID-19.
Consistent with past outbreaks, exceptions to this policy may be made for COVID-19 inpatients in the affected unit at imminent end of life (in consultation with IPAC and the health-care team).
Visiting privileges continue as usual outside the Restorative Care Unit unless patients are in isolation for COVID-19 infection or exposure (with limited exceptions made in discussion with IPAC and the health-care team).
The announcement included a summary of infection-prevention and -control measures in place at NHH.
· Temporary closure of Restorative Care to all new admissions
· Daily self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms by staff – All individuals entering the hospital for work must pre-screen, and refrain from entering the building or Community Mental Health offices in the event symptoms develop
· Mandatory use of appropriate PPE – All staff, physicians, midwives and essential caregivers or visitors are expected to pay strict attention to Personal Protective Equipment requirements throughout the hospital, and the universal masking policy remains in effect
· Cohorting of patients considered high-risk contacts – Any patients identified as having a high risk of exposure have been co-located into the same area and tested, and are being cared for with appropriate precautions.
· Mandatory vaccination of staff – All staff and physicians are required to be up to date on having two vaccines. Booster vaccines continue to be distributed to reduce the risk of infection and spread further.
· Strict adherence to thorough hand-hygiene practices – This continues to be reinforced.
· Enhanced environmental cleaning – This is done with a special focus on equipment shared among patient rooms
· Proactive communication – Public notices are continually updated across NHH communication channels, including on doorways within and leading to the hospital, to promote awareness of the presence of COVID-19 and the importance of vigilance.
As a high-risk setting NHH maintains its universal masking policy throughout the hospital and the Community Mental Health offices, where everyone is expected to keep their medical-grade masks on at all times (or over top of their personal cloth masks) while inside, unless eating or drinking in designated areas. For this reason – to avoid removal of masks – no eating or drinking is permitted by visitors in patient rooms.
Mask dispensers have been added at public entrances to the hospital and Community Mental Health to augment the support by NHH Auxiliary volunteers, who have been exceptional at helping to distribute masks and remind incoming patients and visitors of the importance of PPE while inside the premises.
“Despite NHH’s universal masking policy, we continue to see some visitors taking a relaxed approach to masking while inside the hospital, either removing the mask after entry, letting it drop down around their chin, or removing it once in a patient room,” Manager of Infection Prevention and Control Ellen Douglas noted.
“Unfortunately, we believe that this has contributed to some patients contracting COVID-1i.
“For our care teams, it is extremely hard to enforce masking when some visitors simply do not acknowledge the risk for themselves, the loved ones they are visiting, and other vulnerable patients around them when masks are not worn in high-risk settings like hospitals,” Douglas said.
“Masks work. If you are visiting a loved one at NHH, please wear a mask, and please wear it properly and consistently throughout your stay to help us minimize the risk of further outbreaks in the future.”
For details on NHH Visiting Guidelines and expectations – including virtual visiting options and answers to other frequently asked questions – visit the hospital website at https://nhh.ca/Patients/VisitingGuidelines
Updates on the hospital’s COVID-19 status will continue to be communicated through this means and through related social-media channels.
Community outbreak information can be found on the health unit website at https://www.hkpr.on.ca./category/my-community/outbreaks