The hospital and local long-term care facilities are prepared for COVID-19.

“We have a plan in place,” said Gisèle Larocque, the Vice President of Human Resources and Community Relations at Hawkesbury and District General Hospital (HGH).

The facility’s pandemic plan has been updated and has been set into motion.

“We responded accordingly,” said Larocque, following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11.

HGH staff are being given special training in pandemic procedures, including how to properly use masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment.

Larocque said the hospital has a sufficient supply of all of the protective materials required.  The hospital is required to follow all guidelines established by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) and the Ontario Ministry of Health.

“We’ve been doing screening,” said Larocque regarding patients who arrive at the hospital.

If someone has COVID-19-like symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing), they should first contact the EOHU.  The health unit will notify the hospital and a time will be arranged for the patient to go there and be properly received.

However, Larocque said HGH is prepared if people do not contact the health unit and go directly to the emergency room.

When patients arrive at HGH, they are being screened for symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath.  They are being asked if they have traveled outside Canada in the past 14 days before getting sick and if they were in contact with someone who has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, or were around any people who had traveled to Canada from seriously affected countries.

Depending on the answers a patient gives, they will either be instructed to wear a mask and clean their hands, or they will be placed in isolation to receive further medical attention.  It takes 24 to 48 hours for test results to be obtained.  Depending on the severity of the symptoms, doctors would determine if the patient was to remain in hospital or return home for recovery in self-isolation.

Larocque emphasized that the hospital is most concerned about ensuring that the most vulnerable people with weakened immune systems or other chronic conditions are cared for.

No one should go to the hospital to visit patients if they have any symptoms resembling COVID-19.

No changes or cancellations have been made to scheduled procedures, tests, and appointments at HGH.  The hospital is safe for visitors, patients and staff.  However, those with any symptoms that may be a concern should call ahead to check first.

HGH staff are also being encouraged to practice proper hand hygiene and all business-related travel for staff has been halted.