People entering local hospitals will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and questioned about their travel history, he adds.
Visits to patients in area hospitals have been curtailed, according to Pichora.
“We’re also limiting the number of visitors per patient to one family member, so it’s very important that the one family member who comes is healthy and will pass screening,” he said.
To date, there have been no cases of COVID-19 in Kingston, but Pichora says that is most likely to change.
“We’re anticipating community spread eventually,” he said. “We’re seeing this in other communities, in Ottawa and Toronto, I’m told.”
The hospitals are also looking at the possibility of dialling back elective services amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We’re the regional tertiary service provider for a lot of complex services that are only carried out here,” says Pichora. Some of those include complex cancer surgeries, heart surgery and neurosurgery.
However, so far, no action has been taken to push back these services, Pichora told Global Kingston.
“We want to preserve those as long as possible and hopefully not curtail them, so we’re working hard at that,” he said.
Pichora says his organization is working with other regional hospitals to look at ways of preventing the need for such measures.
“We’re working to see how we might backstop each other to try to optimize the continuance of services,” he said.
Many of these measures are taking place as Kingston General Hospital is set to become one of eight sites in the province designated to do COVID-19 lab testing.
Pichora says the lab will be operational on March 17.
“Our lab staff, our infectious disease people, have done a huge amount of work to bring this on so quickly,” he said.
This past weekend, a COVID-19 assessment centre was opened at Hotel Dieu Hospital, and Pichora says a second site is in the process of being set up at Kingston General Hospital.
“It will be for specific individuals who need to be assessed here,” he said.
Pichora says he, along with the chief medical officer at KFL&A Public Health, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson and the city’s chief administrative officer held a conference call Monday morning “to talk about the possibility of opening up a different venue in the city, such as an arena or a high school gym, where we could accommodate larger numbers of people.”
Pichora says he hopes that move isn’t necessary, but the volume of people over the last few days has him preparing just in case.
To keep volumes down, Pichora is encouraging people to make sure they need to be screened for COVID-19.
The Kingston Health Sciences Centre website lists the criteria for COVID-19 screening, which include dry cough or fever along with a history of travel to an affected country or close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 or a person with a new respiratory illness that has travelled to an affected area.
Only if a person meets those criteria should they think about being screened, says Pichora.