An Update on Emergency Operations - 5 Months into the COVID-19 Pandemic


Reaching 5 months since pandemic emergency operations began back in March, the Hospital, Long-Term Care, and Family Health Team are looking to share a summary of the many changes and hard work the organization has undertaken in response to COVID-19. Internal COVID-19 response email updates reached the milestone of 100 last week, creating an opportunity to pause, reflect, and share with our community the many, and sometimes rapid changes we experienced over the past 5 months, as well as where we are today.

Emergency Department and Medical Inpatient Services
After a period of reduced visits to the Emergency Department in April and May, visit volumes have now reached almost 70% of volumes from previous years. While the number of patients seeking emergency care is still less than in previous years, some patients have delayed seeking care and are now more sick than our previous patient population. Patients are reminded to contact your primary care provider / the Renfrew County Virtual Triage and Assessment Centre (RC VTAC) for less urgent concerns, and to continue to come to the hospital if you have a serious health concern. The Emergency Department team continues to work with significantly enhanced infection control precautions and has adapted protocols and work flows to meet new requirements in response to COVID-19. Please remember that patients seeking emergency care are permitted to have only one person accompany them, as per visitor guidelines when necessary.

The number of patients admitted to the Medical Unit remains high, ranging from 75-100% of beds in use over the past few months. A temporary surge actually saw occupancy briefly exceed 130% over the past few weeks. Many patients throughout the region remain in acute care medical units while they are awaiting placement in a Long-Term Care home.

Diagnostic Imaging
After a sudden hold of all non-essential services in March, a slow, staged resumption of non-urgent outpatient X-ray and ultrasound services began in June. Diagnostic Imaging has now resumed expanded services including injection procedures, mammography and the Ontario Breast Screening Program. New referrals are being accepted, and patients that are due for a mammogram are encouraged to call and make an appointment. Women over 50 years of age who would like their mammogram in Deep River can call 613-732-1463 and request that their appointment be made in Deep River. The Diagnostic Imaging department continues to do out-patient X-rays and ultrasounds by appointment only. Family doctors or Nurse Practitioners are to fax requisitions to the Diagnostic Imaging Department, who will then call patients to schedule an appointment.

Laboratory services continue with appointment based care, completing blood tests daily, between the hours of 7:30 am and 11:00 am. To book your next blood work appointment at the Deep River and District Hospital, please call 613-584-3333 ext. 7850.

Out-Patient Clinics
After a hold of services, out-patient clinics have worked to adapt to provide care in alternative formats. Ambulatory care, including diabetes education, clinical nutrition, and supported specialized clinics continue via virtual or phone delivery. Physiotherapy services have been re-established for inpatients, with community clinics and appointments remaining on hold.

Family Health Team
The Family Health Team continues to deliver care primarily via virtual methods, with a graduated return to in-person visits in progress. Plans are in development to safely re-establish prioritized clinics in the fall, as well as support continued in-person care with the enhanced precautions necessary for safe primary care visits.

Four Seasons Lodge Long-Term Care
Segregation of Long-Term Care operations and staff from the Hospital remains in place to protect our residents. COVID-19 testing for all residents and designated staff has continued twice a month at the direction of the Ministry of Long-Term Care, and will continue until direction is received to stop ongoing testing. The dedicated Four Seasons Lodge team has completed several cross-training activities and team members have been able to adapt their work routines and responsibilities to meet not only resident physical needs, but their social needs as well. The Four Seasons Lodge has also adopted a cat, Cesar, who is settling in well and is already well loved.

In compliance with provincial directives, a gradual and phased resumption of visitation is taking place at the Hospital and Long-Term Care. At this time, current visitor restrictions across Renfrew County Hospitals remain in place and will not expand further. Details of visiting policies can be found on our website at drdh.org/visiting.

COVID-19 Testing
COVID-19 testing for members of the public remains available through the Renfrew County Virtual Triage and Assessment Centre (RC VTAC) and their drive-through clinics. The COVID-19 testing schedule can be accessed at rcvtac.ca. Testing is not being done in the Deep River and District Hospital (DRDH)’s Emergency Department.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Status
While some minor supply challenges are ongoing, overall there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment to support the ramp up of services across the region. At the present time, the organization has sufficient PPE to maintain services and safety for staff, physicians, patients and residents. Patients or visitors coming to the hospital are asked to wear their own mask when possible (unless otherwise directed by the screening desk), in order to continue to protect the supply of PPE for frontline healthcare workers.

Entry to the Organization & Screening
All individuals entering the building continue to do so through a single entry. This single entry ensures we are able to screen and put appropriate protection measures in place for persons coming into the organization, such as the right type of mask. The organization is currently planning to incorporate screening as part of our ‘new normal’, in order to have this resources in place over the months to come. It is crucial that those entering the organization listen carefully to the screening desk staff and answer all questions truthfully. Answers to the screening questions will not affect access to services, but will direct which precaution measures need to be put in place.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
“On behalf of our entire organization, I would like to extend a very sincere thank you to all our staff, physicians, and the community for their efforts navigating these past 5 months of emergency operations, rapidly changing directives, and all of the unforeseen situations we have found ourselves in” said Janna Hotson, Chief Nursing Executive and COVID-19 Response Team Lead. “We are so proud that our team has managed to maintain operations and services when they have been needed most, and kept our focus on keeping patients, residents and each other safe through it all.”