The Province of Ontario is implementing enhanced measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 with dedicated assessment centres and increased lab testing.
Ontario’s new Command Table — an oversight committee that handles the province’s response to the coronavirus — has finalized plans for the implementation of enhanced measures to ensure the province is prepared.
Some of these measures include, increased access to screening, lab-testing capacity, and implementing new initiatives to keep the public and frontline workers protected.
“Ontario’s public health system continues to demonstrate remarkable responsiveness to COVID-19,” Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health said. “While we have so far effectively contained new cases of this virus, we are relentlessly focused on planning for any scenario. We are actively working with our partners at all levels in the health care system to implement enhanced measures to ensure that we are prepared to protect the health of all Ontarians.”
Enhanced access to screening
Ontario is using a multi-pronged approach to improve access to screening measures, in person and online.
According the province, a number of dedicated assessment centres will be placed in regions experiencing significant growth in testing.
The first wave of assessment centres will open in the next several days at Brampton Civic Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital, North York General Hospital, Mackenzie Health, Scarborough Health Network, and Trillium Health Partners.
“These centres are located in dedicated spaces that will facilitate high-quality care, to protect broader patient populations,” the province said.
More assessment centres will be established across the province in coming weeks and any regions without a centre will continue to be serviced by their local hospital.
Ontario has also approved new physician billing codes for telephone assessments, enabling doctors to conduct more assessments over the phone rather than in their clinic, helping to keep patients at home rather than in primary care settings where they can be in close contact with others.
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The province also noted their expansion efforts in its Telehealth capabilities to ensure adequate support to handle increased call volumes.
In addition to continuing to review virtual care capacity, the Command Table has also initiated early planning for the implementation of at-home testing.
In the coming days, the province will be launching a new coronavirus self-assessment tool on its dedicated web page. This new tool will take the public through a series of questions to help inform those who are concerned about having contracted COVID-19 about how they can seek care based on their needs.
Expanding Lab-Testing Capacity
The province is working with Public Health Ontario and Ontario Health to enhance laboratory testing capacity across the province.
Laboratory testing is also being conducted on other respiratory samples from hospital emergency departments and long-term care homes in order to identify any unknown cases of coronavirus.
Protecting the Public and Frontline Workers
The province is also working towards increased access to credible and up-to-date information for Ontario residents, by launching a province-wide public education campaign.
The dedicated web page is being updated twice a day, with relevant information on any new cases and includes fact sheets translated in nearly 30 languages.
Ontario has issued updated guidelines to long-term care homes to ensure active screening for all staff, volunteers, family members, as well as new and returning residents.
The province is also providing additional funding for one year to public health units, which gives a 10% increase to the municipality funding dedicated to these units.
Toronto also launched a task force to tackle the spread of the virus in the city on Thursday.
Ontario and the city’s response plans comes one day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will provide a $1 billion response fund to all provinces and territories to help combat the outbreak.
With coronavirus on the rise, Toronto Public Health is reminding individuals who attend events and large gatherings to monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. And if you’re not feeling well, they recommend staying home at this time. Also, due to unexpected cancellations, please check the event you plan to attend is still taking place. Keep up with COVID-19 news here.