THUNDER BAY — Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has declared a COVID-19 outbreak in one section of the hospital.
The outbreak on 3A was declared Wednesday in collaboration with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.
The hospital did not provide details but said an outbreak is defined as two or more lab-confirmed cases involving either patients or staff within a specified unit within 14 days, where both cases could have reasonably acquired their infection in the hospital.
It said a thorough assessment of the situation is underway, and enhanced surveillance and testing is being done.
Anyone considered at risk will be notified.
TBRHSC also announced that it is proactively taking further measures to ensure the safest possible environment for patients and staff, in response to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Northwestern Ontario.
These steps include reopening a dedicated COVID-19 care unit on 3B.
The hospital now has 15 patients admitted who are COVID-19 positive, including two in the intensive care unit.
Ninety-two per cent of its beds are currently occupied, while the ICU occupancy rate is at 77 per cent.
TBRHSC had closed its dedicated COVID unit last July.
In addition to reopening it, the hospital announced the following measures:
- Reducing the allowable number of Essential Care Partners. Inpatients and outpatients will be granted one ECP unless indicated otherwise
- Pausing non-emergent and non-urgent surgeries and procedures as per a Ministry of Health directive. Patients impacted by this change will be contacted
- Adjusting Assessment Centre operations to support high-risk settings and specific populations in alignment with health ministry guidance, and in order to preserve human resources
Despite the growing incidence of COVID-19, the hospital said it's important for residents to know that it remains open for anyone needing urgent care.
However, it cautioned that visitors to the emergency department will continue to be seen in priority based on an assessment of their specific illness.
"As a result of high volumes, this will likely mean longer than normal waiting times for less severe illness," it said in a statement. "If you have mild COVID-19 symptoms, you may wish to call your primary care provider or TeleHealth Ontario for advice on managing symptoms at home."
TBRHSC is also asking that individuals who believe they have COVID-19 but whose symptoms are similar to a cold or flu refrain from coming to the emergency department for testing.
"Our ER is not a COVID-19 testing centre, and coming in risks exposing vulnerable people to the coronavirus," it said.