Coronavirus Outbreak – Information for staff, physicians, learners and volunteers

Please note: This information is not for distribution outside of Unity Health; we are using a private section of our external website to allow staff easy access to these materials offsite and after hours.

Understandably, there is a lot of anxiety surrounding this issue given the uncertainties about dealing with a new and emerging disease about which we do not yet have complete information. However, we do want to emphasize that our hospital is well prepared and is monitoring the situation very closely and the risk still remains low for Canadians.

Feb. 14, 2020
What Unity Health is doing:
  • Our emergency departments and ambulatory areas are screening patients from China for febrile respiratory illness.
  • IPAC is being notified about all symptomatic patients that have returned from China within the last 14 days and assisting with the assessment and disposition of these patients.
  • Our Coronavirus Management Team is meeting regularly to ensure appropriate coordination and response across our sites.
Action items:
  • Review the Travel Screening Tool for steps to take if a patient screens positive.
  • Do not use our emergency departments to enter or exit the hospital to help limit the amount of traffic in that area.
  • If you are approached by the media for any comments on the situation, direct them to communications@unityhealth.to.
  • If you have travelled to China and are about to return to work, you must contact Occupational Health and Safety before coming in.
  • Ensure your N95 mask fitting is up to date – see below for available times.

Providence
Location: OHSW, D207
Monday and Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesday, 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

St. Joseph’s

Location: OHS, Sunnyside room 204
Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

St. Michael’s
Location: CHSS, 2-037 Shuter

Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dear Unity Health staff, physicians, learners and volunteers,

As we continue to hear updates about the spread of the novel coronavirus (now called COVID-19) in China, Unity Health is doing everything possible to ensure that we are prepared should a case present at one of our sites. Our Coronavirus Management Team continues to meet regularly to ensure appropriate coordination and response across our sites and our Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) team is helping support our frontline teams in screening patients. Please do not hesitate to contact IPAC if you need any support, or to reach out directly to the Coronavirus Management Team with any questions by emailing questions@unityhealth.to.

As a reminder, any staff members, physicians, learners or volunteers who have travelled to China, Hong Kong or Macao within the last 14 days are required to contact their site’s Occupational Health team before returning to work:

  • St. Joseph’s: 416-530-6800
  • St. Michael’s: 416-864-5400
  • Providence: 416-285-3666, ext. 4386

There is understandably anxiety in our organization and our communities right now as we continue watching this situation develop in China, however we want to emphasize that the current risk to Canadians is low and that there are no patients with COVID-19 admitted to hospital in Ontario and none have been identified at Unity Health Toronto. If you have any personal concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak, you can always reach out to the Employee and Family Assistance Program for support.

Please continue to check the coronavirus resource page we have created that is being updated in real time. Submitted questions are being added to our frequently asked questions and we will continue to share updates through Twice a Week as more information becomes available.

In times like this, it is more important than ever that we all work together, keep an open dialogue and help our patients and their families understand the low risk. We are so grateful for your dedication to serving our communities and for everything you do.

Tim

President and CEO
Unity Health Toronto

Thank you to those who tuned in for our Virtual Town Hall on Jan. 31 about coronavirus preparations at Unity Health. If you weren’t able to attend, you can watch the video and read our FAQs. Timestamps have been provided for the start time of each agenda item.

To watch the video at St. Joseph’s and St. Michael’s, go to SMHTube.
(Open in Internet Explorer; if the site is blocked, click “advanced,” then proceed to site)

To watch the video at Providence, go to this intranet page.

  1. Update from Tim Rutledge, President and CEO (0:00)
  2. Infection Prevention and Control update
    • Coronavirus overview – Dr. Mark Downing, Division Health and Education Lead, Infectious Disease, St. Joseph’s Health Centre (5:14)
    • What we’re doing locally – Dr. Matthew Muller, Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control, St. Michael’s Hospital (8:34)
  3. Emergency Department update
    • Carolyn Snider, Chief of Emergency Medicine,  St. Michael’s Hospital (12:15)
    • Steven Rhee, Chief of Emergency Medicine, St. Joseph’s Health Centre (16:18)
  4. Questions (21:25)

More info

If you have any questions related to infection prevention and control, contact your site’s IPAC department directly:

For any other general questions, contact questions@unityhealth.to.

Dear Unity Health staff, physicians, learners and volunteers,

I wanted to reach out because I know the last week has been incredibly busy for teams across our sites as we prepare to meet challenges we may face related to the coronavirus outbreak. In addition to our regular work, many have fielded questions from patients, residents, families and visitors about the steps Unity Health is taking to protect them, and many of our own people are understandably anxious as they provide care on the front lines. I want to reassure you that risk to Canadians for 2019-nCoV still remains low. While there is a large focus from the media on the outbreak in China, the situation here is quite different; our health care system in the province has been monitoring and preparing since the outbreak first emerged earlier this month and, as a result, we feel confident in our ability to respond to this, should we need to.

Teams across Unity Health have done an enormous amount of work in the last few days, implementing consistent screening measures across our units, including putting in enhanced triage processes, collaborating with Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) and updating mask fit testing. We have also established a Coronavirus Management Team chaired by Dr. Tom Parker that is meeting daily to share updates and determine action plans. This group will continue meeting regularly and you can connect with them directly if you have any questions or concerns by emailing questions@unityhealth.to. We are also continuing to work with our partners including the Ministry of Health to ensure we have the latest recommendations and guidelines in place.  I am so proud and appreciative of the way our teams have come together in such a short time. It’s been all hands on deck and, because of that, I am confident we will be ready to meet any challenges ahead.

I know some of you will have questions. We have resources available for all staff, physicians, leaders and volunteers on the Unity Health website that you can access from work or home – there’s a link to it from the home page of all three of our intranets. On there, you will find the latest communications as well as frequently asked questions which we are updating in real time. On that page, you can also find a general patient and visitor information sheet that you can print and share as needed with anyone who has questions or wants additional information about the outbreak and what we are doing to protect everyone across our sites.

The work you do every day is important, and the role you play during a challenging time like this is even more significant – you are the ones connecting with our patients, residents, families and visitors, and your reassurance to them means a lot in helping them feel more secure and confident in their safety across our sites. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to connect with your manager or our Coronavirus Management Team. We will be using all of your questions to inform our ongoing communications.

I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you for the important role you have during this time, and for everything you have done to go above and beyond over the last few weeks.

Tim

President and CEO
Unity Health Toronto

Dear colleagues,

This is an update following yesterday’s communication related to the first confirmed case of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) admitted to Sunnybrook.  Since yesterday, the global situation continues to evolve with an increasing number of cases of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan, China.  There have not been further cases identified in Canada and the overall number of cases outside China remains very small.  No transmission to healthcare workers has been recognized outside of China.

We are continuing to work closely with our emergency departments and ambulatory areas across our sites to ensure that appropriate and safe screening is in place with patients being assessed for fever, respiratory symptoms and a travel history.  Infection Prevention and Control is being notified about all symptomatic patients that have returned from China within the last 14 days and assisting with the assessment and disposition of these patients.

Over the next several days there will be significant activities occurring to ensure that we are fully prepared for any case that may arrive at Unity Health. I am asking you all to continue to read these updates and the information available on the homepage of our intranets as we develop answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) and new materials as needed over the coming days to help keep you informed.

As a reminder, please do not use our emergency departments to enter or exit the hospital; please use an alternate route. This will help limit the amount of traffic in that area to patients who need care.

Is your N95 mask fit testing up to date?

Please check your fit testing card for the make and model and the date in which you were tested. Fit testing is valid for a period of two years. If you need to get re-tested, please visit the Occupational Health and Safety office at your site:

Today (Jan. 26) at St. Michael’s, 8 to 11 p.m. and Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
At St. Joseph’s, Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
At Providence, Monday to Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Infection Prevention and Control will also be offering in person refreshers on how to safely don and doff the personal protective equipment (PPE) required to assess and care for patients with suspected 2019 nCoV infection – watch for announcements about the timing of these sessions at all sites.

Staff who have travelled to Wuhan, China:

If you have travelled to Wuhan, China and are about to return to work, please get in touch with your site’s Occupational Health and Safety team before coming in:

Providence: 416-285-3755
St. Michael’s: 416-864-5400
St. Joseph’s: 416-530-6800

Visitor policy and screening:

There is currently no restriction for visitors to our hospitals. All of our sites have signage posted indicating that visitors who are ill should not visit.  If you notice a visitor who appears unwell, please remind them of this policy.  While this does not apply to all visitors, family members or others accompanying a patient with suspected 2019 nCoV should be screened for fever and respiratory symptoms and if symptomatic should be managed as a suspect case. Please speak to your manager for more information.

Questions?

If you have specific questions related to Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) please contact your IPC department directly. For other general questions please email our Communications Department at communications@unityhealth.to and they will do their best to help direct inquires to the most appropriate person or department. You can also visit www.ontario.ca/coronavirus for more information.

We recognize these developments may cause some anxiety for our people. Please remember that the risk remains low, with only a single confirmed case in Toronto, and be assured we are taking all steps to ensure staff safety.  Staff, including physicians, experiencing significant anxiety should also feel free to contact our Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) line: guidanceresources.com or 1-866-606-6367.

As always, we ask that if you are approached by the media for any comments on the situation, please adhere to our Media Policy and direct any media inquiries to communications@unityhealth.to.

Thanks to all of you for your patience and professionalism as we respond to this evolving situation and for your continued dedication to our patients and to each other.

Sincerely,
Tim

Dear colleagues,

As you may be aware, the first case of the 2019 novel coronavirus in Canada was reported today, and the patient has been admitted to Sunnybrook. Toronto Public Health is working to identify and monitor all contacts of this patient.

While we understand that this news will likely cause some anxiety, we want to reassure you that we have been planning for this possibility and working to ensure that Unity Health Toronto is prepared to assess and treat patients with the 2019 novel coronavirus since it was first identified in China. The safety of our staff and patients is paramount to us and we are taking every precaution.

We have been screening patients for the 2019 novel coronavirus in our emergency departments and several key ambulatory areas since Jan. 6 and are now expanding screening to all clinics and ambulatory areas. There has been regular communication with our emergency departments and we are confident that they will identify and appropriately isolate and manage any patient that presents with a suspected coronavirus infection.

The St. Joseph’s Emergency Department has already dealt with two suspected cases that required investigation based on triage screening. In both cases, the process went smoothly, and the patients were discharged after they were ruled out.

Our ask of you

  • Please do not use our emergency departments to enter or exit the hospital; please use an alternate route. This will help limit the amount of traffic in that area to patients who need care.
  • If you have travelled to Wuhan, China and are about to return to work, please get in touch with your site’s Occupational Health and Safety team before coming in
    • Providence: 416-285-3755
    • St. Michael’s: 416-864-5400
    • St. Joseph’s: 416-530-6800
  • If you are approached by the media for any comments on the situation, please adhere to our Media Policy and direct any media inquiries to communications@unityhealth.to.

More information

  • If you have any questions about the situation, please don’t hesitate to contact the Infection Prevention and Control team at your site, or any of us directly. We want to keep you informed and up to date, so we’ll do our best to provide you with an answer as soon as possible
  • Visit www.ontario.ca/coronavirus

We are staying abreast of the situation and will let you know about any new information and any directives from the Ministry of Health or Toronto Public Health as the situation evolves.

Sincerely,

Matthew Muller, Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control, St. Michael’s Hospital Mark Downing, Infection Control Officer, St. Joseph’s Health Centre Paula Podolski, Director, Infection Prevention and Control, Unity Health Toronto

We are closely monitoring the development of a novel coronavirus that emerged in China associated with respiratory illness.

  • Cases have been detected outside of China, including in the United States.
  • All international cases were travelers who had recently arrived from Wuhan, China.
  • Health care organizations in Ontario are now required to report suspected and confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus to Public Health.
  • The World Health Organization has opted to not declare this a public health emergency of international concern but is continuing to actively monitor the situation.

What Unity Health is doing

  • Our emergency departments are screening patients from China for febrile respiratory illness at triage.
  • Key outpatient areas that routinely assess patients for fever and respiratory illness are also already screening.
  • Ambulatory and inpatient areas will be receiving screening tools next week.
  • All patients under investigation for 2019 novel coronavirus must be assessed using airborne, droplet and contact precautions.
  • If you have any questions, contact Infection Prevention and Control.