St. Joe’s, HHS in Hamilton closing flu, COVID and cold clinics

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Published March 23, 2023 at 12:27 pm

Flu, COVID and cold clinics based at both Hamilton hospital networks — one that has been going since the beginning of the pandemic and one focused on children — are set to wrap up at the end of the month.

St. Josephs’s Healthcare Hamilton (St. Joe’s) announced this morning (March 23) that it will close its COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centre and the Flu, COVID and Cold Clinic at the West 5th Campus on March 31. Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) announced that the pediatric clinic that its McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) is running will accept its last appointments on the same day.

Taken in order of longevity, St. Joe’s cites a sustained drop in the prevalence of COVID-19 and a decline in appointment bookings for testing. This is attributable to uptake in vaccinations, higher levels of immunity, and declining circulation of the virus in the community.

“This feels like a celebratory moment for all of us,” says Dr. Greg Rutledge, St. Joe’s deputy chief of staff. “It’s been a long time getting to this point where we see a significant drop in COVID-19 transmission.”

Ready access to COVID-19 testing in the community through most pharmacies will meet the needs of the public and health-care workers, St. Joe’s added. Healthcare workers and partners from family health teams performed more than 390,000 COVID-19 tests over the past three years.

“We are proud of your efforts and thank everyone who had a hand in helping us reach this milestone,” says St. Joe’s president Melissa Farrell.

The temporary clinic at MCH was opened in December. At that stage, Ontario was seeing increased transmission of respiratory viruses such as COVID-19 and influenza. Prior to the clinic’s addition, pediatric intensive care unit beds were overfilled at 150 per cent capacity.

The children’s hospital partnered with primary caregivers and St. Joe’s to open the clinic.

“Over approximately three months there were nearly 900 visits to the clinic,” says Dr. Angelo Mikrogianakis, chief of pediatrics at MCH. “This equals hundreds of patients who were provided appropriate and timely care while freeing up resources for those who required emergency care.”

The head of family medicine in the city added that the clinic, and the medical pros who staffed it, relieved the burden on the emergency department at MCH.

“The clinic provided patients and families with a convenient option that offered shorter wait times while freeing up capacity in the MCH emergency department,” says Dr. Tamar Packer, chief of family medicine at HHS and St. Joe’s. “Thank you to all the family physicians who staffed the clinic, as well as our partners and others who made this possible.”

Going forward, patients will be directed to contact their primary care provider if they have cough, cold, or flu-like respiratory symptoms. The West End Urgent Care clinic at 690 Main St. W. is also an option for more immediate care.

More than 75,000 people in Hamilton have had COVID-19, and it has been a contributing factor to 677 deaths. The scientific consensus around the health effects which long COVID patients are prone to is also still in its early days.

The City of Hamilton, through the public health unit, maintains a respiratory diseases dashboard. As of Wednesday (March 22), it says COVID-19 transmission is “moderate and stable.” Flu transmission is “low and stable.”

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