COVID, cold and flu clinics run by Hamilton hospitals to close as respiratory infections slow

Cold and flu clinics at McMaster Children's hospital and at St. Joe's West 5th Ave. site will shutter at the end of March. Global News

Hamilton’s two major hospitals are set to close their dedicated COVID, cold and flu clinics at the end of March amid moderate and low respiratory virus transmission across the city.

McMaster Children’s (MCH) clinic, on the hospital’s main floor, says its last patients will check in on March 31, as will attendees to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s outlet at its West 5th Campus.

Spokespeople from Hamilton Health Sciences say the closure was “predicated by the overall decrease in pediatric respiratory illness in the community.”

MCH had partnered with St. Joe’s in December to open the clinic.

“Over approximately three months there were nearly 900 visits to the clinic,” Dr. Angelo Mikrogianakis, Chief of Pediatrics at MCH revealed.

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“This equals hundreds of patients who were provided appropriate and timely care while freeing up resources for those who required emergency care.”

St. Joe’s says its West 5th shutdown was due to “sustained drops” in respiratory virus and COVID cases coupled with a decline in appointment bookings.

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“This feels like a celebratory moment for all of us,” says Dr. Greg Rutledge, Deputy Chief of Staff, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “It’s been a long time getting to this point where we see a significant drop in COVID-19 transmission.”

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More than 390,000 COVID tests were provided by the West 5th clinic during the past three years.

Patients are now being directed to contact primary care providers if they have flu-like respiratory symptoms. Visits can also be made to HHS’ Urgent Care Centre on Main Street West for more immediate care.

Current COVID, cold and flu transmission characterized as low, moderate and stable: public health

Hamilton public health is characterizing current COVID-19 transmission in Hamilton as “moderate and stable” while respiratory virus indicators, in general, are  “low and stable.”

Communicable disease and control division director Jordan Walker told councillors during a board of health meeting this week wastewater testing is showing very little transmission across the city and hospital intensive care unit capacities have improved, despite a slowdown in COVID vaccinations.

“Our COVID-19 vaccination coverage continues to vary by geography,” Walker explained.

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“Dundas and Ancaster have the highest percentage of population receiving a booster dose in the last six months. In contrast, pockets of lower coverage mostly exist in the lower parts of Hamilton and in Upper Stoney Creek.”

The city is still running two mobile clinics focused on areas considered as high risk due to a combination of low coverage and higher concentration of racialized populations.

“We’ve moved to two mobile clinics … added a second …  after the closure of the Lime Ridge Mall fixed site clinic in December and have been moving those mobile clinics around rather frequently over the last number of months,” he said.

Public health is expected to move the clinics to more regular locations throughout the week amid “higher throughput” when there are regular and consistent schedules.

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