THUNDER BAY — Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre says it is taking all precautions against the possibility staff who travel may bring COVID-19 to the hospital when they return to work.
Dr. Stewart Kennedy, the hospital's executive vice-president and COVID-19 response team lead, said Tuesday that "the process for travel by all professional staff has now been more regimented."
This is in the wake of an incident in late May in which a doctor who had been in eastern Ontario worked in the hospital for several days before being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Kennedy said TBRHSC continues to discourage trips outside Northwestern Ontario by any of its employees, but the hospital administration recognizes that the arrival of summer means that some staff will likely travel while on vacation.
The procedures it has implemented for workers returning to the job are aimed at mitigating the heightened risks.
Kennedy said "To avoid [COVID-19] when they do come back they have to report to either the medical affairs office or occupational health. Certainly, if they are symptomatic, they will be swabbed but also told to stay off work. If they are asymptomatic, and they are critical to the operations of the hospital – like a doctor – they will be swabbed and won't be allowed to return to work until the swab comes back as negative."
The hospital has reinforced all its protocols related to COVID-19 over the past several weeks.
A review of the incident in May is still ongoing, under the oversight of the hospital's Medical Advisory Committee.
The doctor involved in the incident won't return to TBRHSC before the review is completed, Kennedy said.
In the meantime, the hospital has re-educated all its professional staff regarding the need to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, which is mandatory in certain areas.
"We've reviewed all those directives and policies, so the medical staff and all the professional staff are aware of the need to continue to where PPE when you're unable to physically distance," Kennedy said.
Decision imminent on mandatory masks for all arriving patients
A hospital committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to further discuss a plan to require all arriving patients to wear masks, including a date for implementation.
Kennedy said implementing the requirement is not as simple as it might seem.
"We don't want people coming to the hospital, who don't have their own masks, to be denied service. But we don't have all the PPE or masks to supply to the public" either, he said.
Kennedy expects issues related to implementing the mandatory wearing of masks should be ironed out by Friday, followed by a public announcement.
The hospital currently only has two patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
Both are in stable condition, and neither is in the Intensive Care Unit.