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WPSHC brings back masking in all patient care units citing rise in respiratory illness

The West Parry Sound Health Centre has joined a growing number of Ontario hospitals in re-instating mandatory masking in all patient care units. 

Katie Hogue, Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Primary, Patient & Family Centred Care, says up until last week, the hospital still required masking when providing direct patient care by staff.  

“We had relaxed the mask masking in other clinical areas, including behind the nursing desk and with visitors. However, we’ve seen an exponential increase in our local COVID numbers as well as the provincial COVID-19 admissions in addition to other respiratory illnesses like influenza and RSV,” she says. 

From a safety perspective, Hogue says staff have also seen patients becoming infected by visitors. 

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“We can’t afford to lose any staff to illness, and so we wanted to also ensure that we’re protecting our staff in addition to the patients. So just based on the numbers that we’re seeing locally and provincially, the decision was made to mask in all clinical areas including when providing direct care and for visitors to keep everybody safe and minimize the transmission,” she says. 

Hogue says WPSHC has also seen a number of outbreaks at its long-term care homes. 

“I’m trying to minimize that risk and support our very precious health human resources because when they’re sick that really does impact the care ,” she says. 

Dr. Wil Smith, Chief of Medical Staff, says what we’re seeing in our regionis similar to what’s seen in other hospitals across the province.  

“We are not the first hospital to reinstate masking and we won’t be the last, but we certainly are taking our cue from the numbers that are coming in from our lab. We still have an ongoing testing program and we are still seeing increases in numbers which is concerning for us,” he says. 

Hogue says this is not unusual. She says the region regularly sees a spike in influenza and other respiratory illnesses as people move indoors and as the weather starts to cool.  

“This is the regular trend. Of course, prior to 2020, we didn’t have the mix of COVID in that and so we’re just seeing an influx of those respiratory viruses. What I would like to say to the public is that if you have the opportunity to get your booster for COVID-19, it’s recommended so you don’t end up in hospital with complications of COVID as well as ensure you get your flu shot if you’re able to do so,” Hogue says. 

Hogue says the centre always wants people to come to the hospital if they need to be seen in the emergency department. 

“We are also asking people that if they’re sick and they’re coming to visit a loved one, not to come. If you are sick and you have an appointment that can be postponed, consider doing so, but make sure that you connect with your provider to help you make that decision,” she says. 

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