Latest in our efforts against COVID-19: Staged return to a ‘new normal’ proceeding steadily at NHH
Non-urgent surgeries, procedures and tests have begun to resume at Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH), in step with the regional approval received late last month.
Among the services that have ramped back up in the past two weeks in a staged plan developed by NHH’s Service Continuity and Planning Working Group are:
- surgical services (e.g. colonoscopies, cataracts, hernia repairs and selected gynecological procedures)
- selected diagnostic imaging procedures (e.g. CT exams, MRIs and ultrasounds);
- small volumes of in-person ambulatory care clinic appointments; and
- a limited number of in-person community mental health appointments through the walk-in counselling clinic at 1011 Elgin Street West, Cobourg.
On March 19, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the government of Ontario directed all acute care hospitals to ramp down elective surgeries and non-urgent activities in order to preserve system capacity to deal effectively with COVID-19.
As a result, only emergency and high-priority surgeries and imaging exams were performed at NHH for close to three months, while hundreds of other tests, appointments and procedures were postponed for safety reasons, or—if appropriate—provided virtually.
“Ramping down was something most members of our team have never done before,” said Susan Walsh, Vice President of Patient Services and Chief Nursing Executive. “This was a challenging time for both patients and NHH staff and physicians alike, as we had to adapt swiftly to the risks of a virus we are still learning about. Safety has continued to remain our guidepost and number one priority and, to that end, I’m very pleased we are now at the point in our region where we can begin to resume non-urgent hospital services.”
NHH is moving forward in two-week increments, resuming a service, or a portion of a service, monitoring patient flow to ensure the conditions required to safely ramp up remain in place—such as the appropriate levels of personal protective equipment, inpatient capacity and more—and inadvertent bottle necks do not occur to impact the necessary physical distancing requirements.
All of this must be done within the context of COVID-19, ensuring safe pathways of care for all, without the benefit of volunteers, who have not yet been permitted to return to hospital duties, in Page 2 of 3 part because of the need to minimize the number of individuals in the hospital to safely manage patient flow and physical distancing.
Beginning June 22nd , the second stage in NHH’s plan, the hospital’s third and final operating room suite will resume operation, and further diagnostic imaging and ambulatory care clinic procedures will also begin to be scheduled, including x-ray, mammography, nuclear medicine and interventional radiology procedures (specifically, joint injections and pain management).
Those awaiting surgery at NHH are being notified by the referring physician to arrange preoperative COVID-19 testing, if required. Diagnostic imaging tests will be scheduled directly by the hospital. In all cases, pre-screening will also be conducted by hospital staff, by phone, to review a standard set of COVID-19 questions, provide logistical details, and answer any questions.