Today’s healthcare news from our regional hospitals and the province will be welcomed by many Valley residents.
Regional hospitals begin to increase scheduled services
A news release from the chiefs of staff of the Champlain Region Hospitals states that the hospitals are taking a safe, coordinated and gradual approach to increasing scheduled services, which were postponed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While hospitals and their clinicians are eager to care for as many patients as safely possible, this measured approach is in line with direction from the provincial government, which acknowledges this process will take weeks and months.
Care teams are reviewing each case individually based on medical need and urgency, ensuring that risks and benefits are properly evaluated before rescheduling the surgery, procedure, diagnostic imaging or clinic appointment that cannot be done virtually. Patients will be contacted as their care can be rescheduled. This increase in service is separate from the ongoing urgent care provided by hospitals throughout the pandemic. Hospitals have also been offering, and will continue to offer, many supports and services virtually throughout the pandemic, such as mental health care and follow-up appointments.
The work of increasing surgeries, procedures and services is being carefully considered and balanced with the potential need to respond quickly in the event of a surge in COVID-19 patients. Hospitals in the region are collaborating to meet the provincial requirements prior to increasing services. Provincial criteria include: a lower-than-average number of patients in hospitals across the region, known as occupancy; appropriate staffing levels and sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) supply; among other conditions.
The chiefs of staff from 18 hospitals, including those in Ottawa as well as St. Francis Memorial Hospital, Pembroke Regional Hospital and Renfrew Victoria Hospital, state: “We will carefully monitor our care volumes and adjust our plans as needed; decreasing some services again might be necessary if the region’s ability to meet the criteria changes, or COVID-19 activity increases in hospitals. And while some aspects of the patient experience will be different, such as fewer patients in waiting rooms, our teams will continue to deliver safe, high-quality, compassionate care.”
Pembroke Regional Hospital (PRH) President and CEO Pierre Noel said, “Given we are still in a pandemic, it may be some time before we can fully open all services. Patients will be prioritized to ensure those most in need are seen first and they will be contacted by the hospital or by their family physician to reschedule their appointment or procedure.” Others, he added, will need to continue to wait for rescheduled in-person appointments, but may continue to receive care virtually where possible.
The news release from PRH points out that everyone who enters the facility will continue to be screened for COVID-19 and will be required to wear a mask. While masks will be provided to those who need them, where possible, patients are asked to bring and wear their own.
At this time, Noel added, the province has not given direction to hospitals to reduce or remove visitor restrictions which were put in place early in the pandemic.
Visitors to be allowed in long term care facilities from June 18
Ontario this afternoon announced the gradual resumption of visits to long-term care homes, retirement homes, and other residential care settings.
Family and friends will be allowed access to these settings beginning June 18, 2020. Visits have been restricted since mid-March, with only essential visitors permitted to enter long-term care and retirement homes. Long-term care homes will allow outdoor visits of one person per resident each week at a minimum. Retirement homes will resume indoor and outdoor visits in designated areas or resident suites when physical distancing can be maintained. Other residential care settings will be able to allow outdoor visits of two people at time. Physical distancing will be required for all visits. This approach will ensure the health and safety of residents, staff and visitors.
Visitors will be required to pass active screening every time they visit, confirming with staff that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the previous two weeks, and complying with the infection prevention and control protocols. This includes bringing and wearing a face covering during visits.
Also, long-term care and retirement homes, as well as other residential care settings, must meet specific conditions before they welcome visitors.
As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves in Ontario, the direction on visits at long-term care homes, retirement homes and residential settings will continually be updated keeping the safety and emotional wellbeing of residents and staff at the forefront.
Ontario to lift 30-day supply restriction on prescriptions
This evening the Ontario Ministry of Health announced in a news release that the Ontario government is lifting the recommended 30-day supply limit for dispensing Ontario Drug Benefit program medications. Effective June 15, 2020, program recipients can return to filling up to 100-day supply at a time from their pharmacy or dispensing physician, when appropriate.
“The restriction on the supply of medications was critical to prevent drug shortages due to increased demand and stockpiling at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “With the supply of medications stabilizing, people can safely go back to getting their regular prescriptions filled. This will be much more convenient for people, especially for our seniors and vulnerable citizens.”
Ontario Drug Benefit recipients’ co-payments will return to their previous amounts. People are encouraged to buy the medications they need in reasonable quantities. This will help ensure that everyone can get their prescriptions filled as we continue to try to stop the spread of COVID-19. The province will continue to monitor the situation to ensure there are no disruptions to the drug supply chain in the future.
Schreiter,M.(2020,June10) Hospitals in the Champlain Region slowly and safely increasing scheduled hospital activity[media release]
Levesque,C.(2020,June10) Pembroke Regional Hospital Prepares For Gradual Reintroduction Of Services [media release]
Yelich,I., Sloggett,G. and Varsava,M.(2020,June11) Ontario to Resume Family Visits in Long-Term Care Homes, Retirement Homes, and Other Residential Care Settings [media release]
Jensen.D and Chazan,H.(2020,June11) Ontario Lifting 30-Day Supply Limit on Prescriptions [media release]