Rapid test kits not yet available for PHSD

MANITOULIN – Although Health Canada has recently approved rapid COVID-19 testing kits made by Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience Inc., don’t expect any in this region any time soon, said local health officials.

“The rapid test kits are issued by (PHSD). It is highly unlikely that Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) will receive any of these. They are more suited to the more Northern and remote locations,” said MHC president and CEO Lynn Foster in a statement to The Expositor.

PHSD added that the new tools being released to better diagnose COVID-19 were very exciting to health officials.

“At this time, there has been no announcement to local public health about the availability of additional COVID-19 diagnostic tools for use within Ontario,” read an unattributed statement from PHSD.

MHC has a plan to handle a potential surge in patients should COVID-19 numbers worsen on Manitoulin Island. Ms. Foster shared some parts of the plan with The Expositor.

“We will be dividing our hospital into a COVID-19 site (Little Current) and a non-COVID-19 site (Mindemoya), so all inpatients that don’t have COVID-19 would be moving to the Mindemoya site, and we’ll keep the COVID-19 patients here,” said Ms. Foster.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has approved eight extra beds at the Little Current hospital site, should those become necessary.

“If that gets to the point where all occupancy or availability is taken up, we’ll have some of our patients move up to what we’ve called our field hospital, and Dr. (Mike) Bedard is the clinical administrator of that space,” said Ms. Foster.

Critically ill patients will continue to be treated at the Little Current hospital, while those who need care but are not in critical condition will get moved to the field hospital. Patients can flow back and forth between the two sites as their conditions change.

The goal of the field hospital and the main site is to get people recovered enough so that they can be independent at home. If that is not possible and they still need some personal care help, they will be transferred to the community recovery centres (so far, one is planned for Manitowaning and another is planned for M’Chigeeng First Nation). The community centres are not affiliated with MHC.

Last week, MHC sent out a call for registered nurses, registered practical nurses, personal support workers, housekeeping aides and volunteers. Ms. Foster has clarified that this is part of the hospital’s surge planning to determine what skilled workers presently exist on Manitoulin and plan their work strategy.

“Up until now, we have been working collaboratively with the employees and trying to decide on which site they preferred to work at (for people who might work at both MHC and the Manor, as an example),” said Ms. Foster. Provincial regulations have since mandated that practice across Ontario.

Since the testing guidelines loosened this month, traffic at the MHC testing centres has increased.

“I haven’t received feedback but the fact that the numbers are increasing indicates people have concerns and are stepping forward to be tested,” said Ms. Foster.

With more testing will likely come more cases, statistically speaking, and Ms. Foster said MHC is following Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care guidance.

“MHC has taken the time to put rigorous processes in place and we are prepared to handle an increase,” said Ms. Foster. “We’re being cautious, especially now that the symptoms list has increased, and we’re hoping that if we have the virus in our community that we can find it and stop it before it spreads. That’s our goal and, as I said, we’re prepared to do that.”

The current list of COVID-19 symptoms includes fever, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle aches, loss of appetite or smell or taste, sore throat, runny nose and diarrhea, according to PHSD.

“If they are experiencing any one of the symptoms just described, I urge them to come forward. It is important to try and determine whether this virus is in our community so we can eradicate it or at least stop it, and minimize the contact and the spread,” said Ms. Foster.

To book a screening appointment, call the Little Current site at 705-368-2300 or the Mindemoya site at 705-377-5311 and follow prompts for the assessment line.