Northern Health tightens access to its facilities

Only essential visits considered; screening criteria in place

The Northern Health Authority has further tightened its restrictions on visitors to facilities, including the Houston Health Centre and the assisted living units at Cottonwood Manor.

The restrictions follow the direction and guidance from the provincial health ministry and the BC Centre for Disease Control to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Essential visits will be considered for patients who are critically ill, receiving end of life care and are frail and need an escort or family member for their safety, Northern Health stated in a March 23 release.

“The guidelines, restrictions and related signage would be for the overall site, and the general provincial public health guidance is, of course, applicable to everyone,” added Northern Health official Eryn Collins of Cottonwood Manor.

In addition to assisted living units at Cottonwood Manor under the management of Northern Health, the facility also contains independent living units.

In following provincial guidance, Northern Health has indicated “eligible essential visitors must pass important screening criteria. This means they cannot have a cough, runny nose, sore throat or shortness of breath, and they cannot have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days.”

It is encouraging people to check the centre for disease control’s website, for regular updates.

The Smithers Community Services Association, which manages Cottonwood’s independent living units, has ceased group programs and one-on-one activities.

“Staff may continue to help clients over the telephone,” it states.

“All staff returning from out of country travel will self-isolate for 14 days,” it adds.

Specific to the Houston Health Centre, as of March 25, all doctors appointments will be by telephone instead of in clinic, indicates the health centre in a statement.

”At the time of your appointment, the primary care clinic practitioner will call clients at their scheduled appointment times. If the pandemic progresses, it may be necessary to cancel all non­ urgent appointments.”

Residents are asked to phone the centre at 250-845-2294 to arrange for the pick up of supplies, access lab or x-ray, or for dropping of lab specimens. Ring the doorbell and wait at the front door for direction.

Residents with a health concern or injury they feel is urgent or emergent and feel a need to be seen at the clinic, call the clinic to speak to a nurse.

“If you have a fever, and/or respiratory symptoms such as cough, or runny nose, please call the Northern Health Online Clinic and Info Line 1-844-645-7811 to speak to a nurse, physician or nurse practitioner. If you are unable to call the line due to urgent / emergent presentation, please call the Houston Health Centre before coming in to notify staff if you have a fever, and/or respiratory symptoms such as cough, runny nose,” the release continues.

”This allows us to make necessary preparations prior to access (i.e. direction for entry and personal protective equipment (PPE) time for staff).”

Residents are asked to come to the health centre alone unless requiring assistance.

”We can allow no more than one additional person into the building with you. The front door will be locked. If you need entry, ring the doorbell (found on the inner front doors – follow the signage), and wait at the front door to be let in.”

Following provincial guidance, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control strongly urges anyone with symptoms, including fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat, or shortness of breath to self-isolate.

“With or without a history of travel, if you have respiratory symptoms that can be managed at home, self-isolate at home for at least 10 days after onset of symptoms. After 10 days, if your temperature is normal and you feel better, you can return to your routine activities. Coughing may persist for several weeks, so a cough alone does not mean you need to continue to self-isolate for more than 10 days,” the health centre added in following provincial guidance.

”Self-isolating means staying at home and avoiding contact with others, including going to public spaces like the store or the post office. Ask a friend or family member to deliver anything you may need. Remember that these precautions are intended to protect our elders and others who are more vulnerable to the disease.”

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