Staff at both of Hamilton’s hospital networks will be required to wear masks when facing patients starting this week.
The move is in line with recommendations from a Public Health Ontario experts committee noting increases in COVID-19 wastewater signals across the province.
The policy goes into effect on Wednesday and includes mandatory face coverings for staff when in patient rooms, ambulatory clinics, patient activity rooms, hallways and community visits.
N95 respirators are a minimum standard in some settings, particularly in aerosol-generating medical procedures (AGMP) for COVID-positive patients or patients with suspected COVID.
The networks are encouraging staff masking in all clinical and non-clinical areas, however, it’s not required in break rooms, staff lounges, meeting rooms, auditoriums and some laboratories.
Visitors are being encouraged to wear masks but it’s not expected the policy will be enforced by staff.
Masks will be available at hospital entrances and in clinics and visitors will be asked to complete a self-assessment before entering a facility.
“These measures will be subject to ongoing evaluation in relation to the spread of respiratory viruses in our region,” a memo issued Monday to staff at St. Joe’s said.
Patients with fever or respiratory symptoms will be required to be masked in all settings.
Several Ontario hospitals including some in Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston brought back mask requirements to in-patient care in mid-September.
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Those policies include mask requirements for visitors, not just staff.
Kingston Health Sciences has mandatory masking in emergency, children’s outpatient and its urgent care centre while two Ottawa hospitals require masking in all clinical areas and waiting rooms.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported increasing COVID-19 activity since early August.
Officials expect cases of flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, to climb in the fall.
Hamilton Public Health has reported increases in COVID-19 and RSV transmission this month.
Over the past three weeks, that agency confirmed COVID and RSV have made appearances in wastewater, however, the viral signals detected have been “low and stable.”
– with files from the Canadian Press