Extensive planning and mobilization has been underway at the North Bay Regional Health Centre (NBRHC) to respond to COVID-19.
Community members may be most familiar with the decision made a month ago to restrict access to the facility, the scaling down of non-urgent clinical activities and only allowing visitors in exceptional circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic being declared on March 11.
These are just a few of the many measures implemented at the Health Centre to prepare for COVID-19. For over a month, the Health Centre has been sharing regular (almost daily) COVID-19 Updates to keep staff and physicians updated about the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on the Health Centre.
“The changes implemented over the last few weeks have all been carefully considered to ensure NBRHC can create the capacity it requires to safely care for all our patients,” says Tiz Silveri, Vice President, Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Executive. “Elements of our pandemic plan have been put in place to include additional education and simulations, working with partners, screening, monitoring key supplies, reconfiguring space, and enhancing protocol—all with a focus of protecting our patients, staff, community and each other.”
Surges are common in health care and NBRHC successfully implements an influenza surge plan every year, but a compounding factor when preparing for the pandemic is the constant and sustained bed pressures facing our Health Centre for the last two years—forcing our organization to operate above the capacity for which we are designed and funded.
“We want our community to know that we are still here for you during COVID-19—although it may look a little different than you are used to,” Silveri continues. “Our staff and physicians may need to wear masks and gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE) when providing care.” This is important so that they can remain safe and well and provide to care for you.
The majority of the early planning involved the physical spaces in the hospital and how they might be changed to safely care for all patients; how to reorganize our staff; and ordering supplies. Some examples include:
Emergency Department: divided into a respiratory and non-respiratory section—patients will now see the waiting area with a new glass wall that creates clear separation between areas
Specific unit for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients: unit includes three negative pressure rooms (one that remains vacant and dedicated to high risk procedures) and can increase to 13 negative pressure rooms and a plan to increase number of beds (if needed)
Critical Care Unit: divided into COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 areas with a specialized team to do all airway procedures on COVID-19 positive patients
Operating Room (OR): dedicated one operating room specifically for the treatment of COVID-19 patients: all safety protocols in place to safely operate and recover patients
One of the many people at NBRHC closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 was Dr. Jennifer Mihill, Head of Anaesthesia and the COVID-19 Critical Care Preparedness Lead. Dr. Mihill says for weeks, multiple committees at the hospital were meeting almost daily to plan for what might be coming.
“Our number one priority is the safety of everyone involved—our patients, health care workers, and physicians—both the COVID-19 positive ones and the ones who aren’t,” Dr. Mihill says. “It’s also important for our community to know that we are preparing for this, that we do take it seriously, and that we do have a plan.”
*Virtual Scrum Opportunity* Tiz Silveri and Dr. Jennifer Mihill will be available to speak to media at 1 p.m. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can share the link.