As the number of cases of the new coronavirus continues to climb, the Quebec Health Ministry is opening three specialized clinics to handle and test patients who believe they may have contracted COVID-19.
While Health Minister Danielle McCann has warned that the risk of transmission remains low in the province, she says the government is closely monitoring an evolving situation.
In Montreal, health-care workers have already seen at least 20 patients in the old emergency room at the former Hôtel-Dieu hospital in the city’s downtown core since it opened on Monday.
The clinics are supposed to curb overcrowding in hospitals and limit the spread of the disease.
Here is how the clinics tasked with tackling suspected COVID-19 cases work.
Where the clinics are located
There are three clinics in Quebec to take a closer look at COVID-19 cases that are not considered to be serious.
The clinic at Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Montreal opened its doors on Monday while a second in the Quebec City area will take on patients as of Wednesday.
A third designated clinic in the Montérégie region will open early next week.
How to access the clinic
Quebecers who have recently returned from a trip and suspect they may have the new coronavirus are asked to contact Info-Santé at 811 before leaving home.
The caseworker who answers will be able to assess the person on the phone and then help them book an appointment at a specialized clinic.
It is important to note that clinics are only accessible by appointment and walk-ins are not permitted.
Jean-Nicolas Aubé, a spokesperson for Montreal’s health authority, said people need to be referred by a health official or 811 to be admitted.
What to expect upon arrival at the clinic
Montreal’s public health department says that strict preventive measures are in place to protect staff, users and the public. As part of the plan, health-care workers always wear protective clothing and gear.
“The security is very high,” said Aubé. “Everything is done to be sure that people are safe and that medical personnel are also safe.”
Upon entry, users must immediately wash their hands and they will do so at every step in the clinic. Patients and staff must also wear masks the entire time.
Quarantined waiting room
After registering, patients are then moved into a waiting room — which is deemed a quarantined red zone. The room is divided into cubicles to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
During the waiting period, there is no contact between staff and patients.
“Personnel will never enter the hot zone and vice versa to be sure there is no contamination,” said Aubé.
Patients tested by swab, rooms cleaned after every visit
After the waiting room, patients are called upon to see medical staff and they are evaluated.
Individuals will be checked for fever and will undergo a mouth swab to test for the novel coronavirus.
The sample is then sent to the laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. The results can take up to 48 hours.
In Montreal, the room where patients are checked and evaluated is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after every screening.
What happens after the appointment
Liette Bernier, the director of CIUSSS Centre-Sud, said that after the evaluation, patients are sent home or they could be asked to go directly to the hospital if they exhibit severe symptoms.
Individuals who go home are asked to stay there until they receive their test results.
“During that period they are sent back home but they are sent home with a kit that contains gloves and a mask so there is no contamination between that person and others,” said Aubé.
If the patient tests positive, they are then asked to go to one of the hospitals tasked with treating COVID-19.