/COVID-19 assessment centre operating at capacity 

COVID-19 assessment centre operating at capacity 

By Jenn Watt

restrictions on who can be tested for COVID-19 have been lifted, demand
has swelled at the assessment centre in Haliburton, which is averaging
25 to 35 people per day, said Dr. Norm Bottum of the Haliburton
Highlands Family Health Team.
A requirement that those visiting
long-term care receive a negative swab before going to see their loved
ones may also be leading to the increased numbers.
“When we started,
we were booking one patient every half an hour and for a while there we
were actually having trouble filling the day,” Dr. Bottum said, “but it
was all around people who had symptoms and now that they’ve offered
asymptomatic testing [things are much busier].”
Testing is available
by appointment only and in order to meet the need, paramedics and
hospital staff have joined the effort. Test results take about three
days to come back.
Calling patients with test results can take more
time than doing the swabs themselves, particularly for patients who came
in because they have symptoms and need additional follow-up on their
However, most people coming to the centre now are
asymptomatic. Dr. Bottum estimated between 85 and 90 per cent of those
who come in do not have symptoms.
“And [many of them] want to get in to see their loved ones in long-term care – that’s huge,” he said.
on visiting long-term care were loosened by the provincial government
on June 18, provided the home did not have an outbreak. Dr. Bottum said
his understanding was that each long-term care facility could make its
own decisions around how to protect residents and staff, but that they
are all observing strict protocols.
Those intending to visit a
long-term care facility must test negative for COVID-19 in the two weeks
prior to the visit and must continue to take precautions such as
mask-wearing, hand washing and maintaining a safe physical distance from
In addition to the growing demand at the assessment centre,
pressure on other aspects of the medical system are creating slower
than usual services for patients.
Dr. Bottum said those who have
non-emergency medical issues are encouraged to call their doctor rather
than coming to the ER, since COVID-19 screening and cleaning protocols
are increasing wait times at the hospitals.
Since the walk-in clinic
has also been cancelled this summer, it’s important that those who do
not have an emergency situation contact their health-care provider using
telemedicine or videoconferencing, if they can.
“We don’t know what
the summer’s going to hold. We don’t have [classes at Haliburton School
of Art + Design], we don’t have the summer camps, the lodges, the
volume is probably going to be less this summer, but summer’s still
typically a busier time,” he said.
Doctor-patient visits through
telemedicine or videoconferencing are being supported by the provincial
government, so Dr. Bottum said most people should expect that their
doctors or other primary care providers would consult with them that
Minor issues such as requesting a prescription refill can
easily be arranged with your doctor over the phone, or by contacting the
pharmacy for assistance.
In a letter to the community issued June
19, Haliburton Highlands Health Services CEO Carolyn Plummer said that
changes made to prepare HHHS for the COVID-19 threat were still in
place, including the separation of the hospital and long-term care
sites, reducing entry points to the facilities and screening all those
who come in.
Both Haliburton and Minden emergency departments
continue to take those needing emergency and urgent care, however, those
who have COVID-19 symptoms should go to the Haliburton emergency
department or expect to be redirected there.
To book an appointment
at the COVID-19 assessment centre, you can call 705-457-1212 (press 6)
during regular business hours. For information on supports in the
community, including mental health supports, go to haliburtoncares.ca
or call the Community Support Services response team at 705-457-2941 or
text 705-457-0016 Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.