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

Staff and Physician COVID-19 screening

Staff, physicians, and learners are no longer required to complete the daily online screening tool when they come to an HHS site.

Staff, physicians, and learners need to remain vigilant for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 that could appear and when they have had high risk exposures. When these events occur, they can use the online tool for guidance on next steps when a yellow or red alert flag is triggered.

For healthcare workers who may need a PCR test, the Hamilton COVID-19 Assessment Centre is now located at: St. Joseph’s Hospital West 5th Campus.

Universal masking by everyone continues to be required at our clinical sites.

Guidance on Self-Isolation, Testing and Return to Work for Staff & Physicians

The following information will help healthcare workers navigate the guidance and indicate if they are eligible to come back to work sooner.

COVID-19 guidance chart for staff and physicians

Definitions

  • Work self-isolation: healthcare workers only leave their house to attend work and while at work, they remain masked the entire time, and take breaks while staying at least 2 metres away from anyone.
  • Vaccinated: healthcare workers who have received two doses of COVID vaccines (or one dose for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine) with the last dose at least 14 days prior.

If you have any questions about the guidance above, please speak with your leader or contact Employee Health Services.

Rapid Antigen Tests

We are continuing to work with the province to secure and distribute rapid antigen test kits to staff and physicians across all of our sites. Please watch for site specific details regarding dates and locations to be shared via email notifications and in the HHS dispatch.

Boosters for Healthcare Workers

Healthcare workers who received their second dose more than six months ago as of November 6th, are eligible to receive a booster dose through the HHS healthcare worker vaccination clinic. You must make an appointment using Public Health Services online booking system: www.hamilton.ca/getyourvaccine

NACI has recommended booster doses based on evidence of gradual waning immunity six months after receiving a second dose and a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Please see the Government of Ontario announcement and NACI guidance document for details.

While you are not required to submit proof of a COVID-19 booster to be in compliance with the HHS Vaccination Management Policy, you are encouraged to share this information with HHS Employee Health Services for inclusion in your employee health file. You can upload this documentation using the self-reporting tool.

NOTE that a new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine is anticipated to be approved by Health Canada this fall, which may offer more targeted protection against the Omicron variants. Currently there is no estimate of when it will receive approval or become available.

Staff safety and COVID-related absences

Staff Travel

International travel

Please see the Government of Canada guidelines here: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid

Travel within Canada

For travel within Canada, please see the provincial and territorial restrictions here: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/provinces

What this means for HHS staff, physicians, residents and learners

  • Staff must continue to obtain approval for vacation from their Manager/Supervisor
  • Staff are required to report to work unless they are directed otherwise by EHS.
  • Staff who are required to self-isolate as a result of travel, will not be paid. 

Mandatory reporting of COVID-19 vaccination status, additional vaccine resources

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

HHS Resources

Resources to support vaccine confidence

Vaccine Intervention Resources

Provincial Resources

Laboratory Testing for COVID-19

Universal patient testing for COVID-19 upon admission

We will be moving to a universal testing approach to all patients requiring admission to hospital as an additional means to try to reduce risk of patient-to-patient transmission, and potential outbreaks. This measure is due to the rising COVID community epidemiology. This will be put in effect Thursday, December 30, 2021.

This means all unexposed and asymptomatic patients being admitted to hospital will have an oral/nasal COVID only swab conducted for surveillance (regardless of past COVID history or vaccine status). Refer here for further instructions.

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.