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Patients, visitors, staff and healthcare providers can find the latest COVID-19 updates here.

COVID-19: Safety, Screening, Reporting, and Vaccinations

COVID-19 Vaccinations

The province has announced that it continues to accelerate second doses of the COVID vaccine for many Ontarians including healthcare workers (HCW).

Health concerns or issues that may impact your ability to receive the vaccine should be discussed with your primary care physician.

HHS Resources

Provincial Resources

Staff Safety, Screening, Reporting, and Testing

Criteria for COVID-19 testing of healthcare workers

Healthcare workers who have a fever of 37.8 or higher, or new onset or worsening of cough, or difficulty breathing, or loss or sense of taste or smell need to contact Employee Health Services (EHS) at covidforms@hhsc.ca or ext. 42200 to be referred for COVID-19 testing. They must not come to work until cleared to do so by EHS.

Healthcare workers who are experiencing any of the following minor symptoms: unexplained runny nose, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, pink eye, nausea, or diarrhea need to contact Employee Health Services (EHS) at covidforms@hhsc.ca or ext. 42200 to be referred for COVID-19 testing. If they are experiencing more than 1 of these symptoms, they must not come to work until cleared to do so by EHS. They are allowed to continue working with a single symptom while awaiting their test result.

 

COVID-related Absences

Staff may be absent from work as a result of COVID-related illness, isolation, or otherwise. The following two FAQs on Self-Isolation Pay and Other COVID Leaves – Pay Implications will help you to understand your eligibility for a leave of absence, pay and/or government financial supports available depending on your situation.

For information about eligibility for retroactive payment, retroactive measures and timelines please review the FAQ on Retroactive Self-Isolation Pay. For all other questions related to payroll issues, please contact myHR@hhsc.ca.

If you have questions about COVID symptoms or need to speak to an employee health nurse, please contact the COVID hotline at extension 42200 or via email at covidforms@hhsc.ca.

Staff Safety Precautions

Your contribution as a frontline healthcare worker is essential to providing safe care to our patients. Here is a short list of precautions to consider adding to your routine to keep yourself and your family safe given your exposures in the workplace. You were likely already doing many of these things before COVID-19. They are more important now than ever.

Basic tips from Public Health Ontario

How to self-monitor
How to self-isolate
Self-isolation: Guide for caregivers, household members and close contacts

Parent and Caregiver Resources

The information below outlines the support available for employees who may need to be absent from work to accommodate their children’s schedules and schooling. The primary goal is to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure that we maintain an active workforce to treat patients who need urgent and emergency care.

Scenarios for staff when children are sent home from school/childcare
Staff options when kids return to school FAQ

Online Self-Screening for Staff

As reported on the Hub last week, all staff and physicians who self-screen using the online screening tool and have a clean mask to don before entering the hospital will not have to stop at a screening booth. These screening booths are being phased out starting July 9.

Everyone is required to self-screen for symptoms of COVID-19 before their shift by accessing the online screening tool at staffscreen.hhsc.ca.

Remember to:

  • Enter your employee ID exactly as it appears on your employee ID badge – including any leading zeros.
  • Enter your name exactly as it appears in the myHR system (if there is an error in how it appears, please contact HR to correct it).
  • Double-check all the details you have entered before you hit submit.

Read our FAQs for more information.

Thanks to all staff and physicians for helping to deliver on our commitment to a safe and healthy workplace for our patients and colleagues.

Laboratory Testing for COVID-19

New COVID-19 only test

The HRLMP virology lab is now testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the causative agent of COVID-19 as a stand-alone test, in addition to the current test where COVID-19 is tested along with the routine respiratory virus panel (Influenza A & B, RSV, Metapneumovirus, Parainfluenza 1, Rhino/Enterovirus, Adenovirus).

A nasopharyngeal swab is the preferred specimen. Proper collection is essential for a good quality specimen. Refer here for collection instructions.

 Order Entry mnemonics for testing:

  • COVID-2019 ONLY – Meditech: COVID19 Dovetale: COVID-19 PCR
  • Full respiratory virus panel including COVID-2019 – Meditech: CVIRNPS; Dovetale: Nasopharyngeal, virology detection

Please avoid duplicate testing. Only ONE of the COVID-19 tests on a NPS should be ordered at the same time

Sputum for COVID-19

  • Sputum for COVID-19 is now tested at the HRLMP virology laboratory. Use the order entry meditech mneumonic COVID19.
  • Sputum and other lower respiratory specimens (ETA, BAL) should not be ordered routinely at the same time as a NPS. If the NPS is negative and the patient has pneumonia, consider obtaining a sputum (non-induced) /ETA if the clinical picture is highly suggestive of COVID or if symptom onset to testing is >5-7 days. There may be high risk situations with disease severity when both may need to be collected at the same time, but this should be uncommon.

Alternative swabs and transport media

Refer to the Laboratory Test Information Guide

Please refrain from contacting the virology lab directly. Specimens are tested upon arrival at the laboratory and expedited testing of individual specimens is not possible. Please continue to transport COVID specimens by Porter NOT the tube system.

Screening Patients (Quick reference guides)

Patients being transferred to an HHS hospital from a site with a COVID-19 outbreak may require droplet/contact precautions upon arrival. Before receiving an admission from one of these hospitals, please confirm whether or not the incoming patient is from an outbreak unit. If yes or unable to confirm, follow droplet/contact precautions.

Managing asymptomatic patients who are in self-isolation following international travel (March 17, 2020)

Clinical direction is provided in this document.

Screening questions for staff and physicians interacting with patients (updated March 6, 2020)

  • Staff at all entry points (clinics and EDs) to HHS now need to ask patients about travel outside Canada in the last 14 days when screening them for potential exposure to COVID-19.
  • Staff must also ask patients if they have been in contact with someone with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case or who has returned from travel outside of Canada in the last 14 days before getting sick.

Staff Travel

Travel Regulations Memo (Updated July 2021)

The federal government has now eased travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers who are permitted to enter Canada:

Effective on July 5, 2021, fully vaccinated Hamilton Health Sciences staff and physicians who return from travel abroad will no longer be required to isolate at home.

You can read more on the impact of the newly revised federal regulations for HHS healthcare workers here.

This reporting form must be filled and sent to Employee Health Services (EHS) before any international travel.

Questions can be submitted to EHS by email at covidforms@hhsc.ca.