COVID-19 spurs calls to reduce traffic in Toronto hospitals

With the number of positive cases of COVID-19 continuing to grow, especially in the Toronto region, preparations are underway to quell the possibility of infection spread within health facilities.

Canada’s first positive case of COVID-19 saw the patient attend Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Many doctors who have been fighting the virus in Toronto said they would like to see fewer patients attending hospitals.

Late last week, eight physicians from Toronto hospitals authored a paper calling for specialized locations to test for COVID-19.

Dr. Jerome Leis, medical director of infection prevention and control at Sunnybrook Research Institute, was among the co-authors. Citing an “inevitable” surge in cases, the doctors said testing at specialized locations or at homes has now become necessary.

“As we move forward, we need to make sure that people who could have symptoms compatible with COVID-19, right, and the majority of which would be mild, have an area where they can be assessed outside of the emergency department,” said Dr. Leis.

Dr. Leis said the risk of overcrowding emergency departments in the city, would increase the difficulty of managing the virus’ spread.

Michael Garron Hospital in East York is already making preparations for increased demand for its operations. Mark Fam, the hospital’s vice presidents of programs, said it is looking at possible locations across the road or even in portable tents to take the strain off the hospital’s capacity for regular care.

“Setting up a separate assessment centre gives the capacity for folks who are just concerned about COVID-19, need a quick test, or an assessment with a physician,” he said.

Fam said the hospital has been seeing about five to 10 patients a day for testing over the past week. The hospital, he said, has the capacity to test about 30 a day.

By setting up a separate location, Fam said it would keep traffic inside low while offering patients the ability to get their results virtually.

Toronto’s medical officer of health has repeatedly echoed calls to keep people out of hospitals. Dr. Eileen de Villa said if individuals are sick with respiratory symptoms, which they can manage on their own at home, then she urged them to remain there while washing their hands and covering coughs and sneezes.

“If you do develop symptoms of respiratory illness and you find yourself in a circumstance where you would normally seek healthcare, then please call ahead to your healthcare provider to let them know about your symptoms before you seek that care,” said de Villa.

“That was appropriate advice and precautions can be taken.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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