Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the COVID-19 Assessment Centre, managed by Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), has provided safe and timely access to COVID-19 PCR testing, on-site clinical assessments by nurses, paramedics and physicians, and access to COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations for Kingston and surrounding communities.
Now, as a result of declining COVID-19 PCR testing volumes, in combination with other testing options available in the community, the COVID-19 Assessment Centre, located at the Beechgrove Complex, is marking its final day of operation today, Feb. 24.
“The Assessment Centre has been a transformational part of our response to the pandemic and has been a huge resource to Kingston and our region,” says Dr. David Pichora, KHSC’s President and CEO. “It has made a big difference in terms of providing comfort, safety and reassurance to people, especially during a time when we were in unknown territory and there was no playbook to follow. The work done by the leadership, staff and partners of the Assessment Centre are a clear example of innovation and it’s something we can all be proud of.”
The centre first opened its doors in March 2020 at the Hotel Dieu Hospital site, and since then moved to the Memorial Centre, then the Leon’s Centre, before landing at its final location at the Beechgrove Complex. In addition to the multiple location moves, the Assessment Centre also ran three satellite locations, multiple testing drive throughs and pop-ups all while navigating countless outbreaks, several lockdowns and numerous COVID-19 variants.
During this time of constant change and managing the unknown, the underlying strength of the Assessment Centre has been the passion of the teams to strive to always provide outstanding care to the community.
The strength of partnerships
Addiction & Mental Health Services – KFLA (AMHS-KFLA) was one of the important partners to collaborate with the team at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre ensuring that testing and vaccinations reached our community where they were. The population that AMHS-KFLA serves includes people with mental health and addictions who are unhoused and unable to access the hospital for testing or vaccinations due to their circumstances. However, through collaboration, AMHS-KFLA and the COVID-19 Assessment team were able to mobilize and go to where this population are to ensure that services and supports were provided.
“This has been such a pivotal partnership and collaboration, they (Assessment Centre staff) were the ones to get my nurses trained so we could do COVID-19 testing in the community, helping us get medical orders for the nurses so we could do COVID-19 testing, and were a resource for any questions we had,” says Julie Lambert, program manager and manager of the Kingston self-isolation program for the unhoused at AMHS-KFLA. “We were able to service more people, keep people safe and truly put the client first as a result of this collaboration.”
For AMHS-KFLA, the strength of the partnership is reflected in the tremendous amount of work and number of clients that the teams were able to reach, together. This is but one example of the great work that was accomplished by the many agencies and organizations who came together to provide the best care possible to our community where and how it was needed.
When thank you isn’t enough
Over the last three years, over 250,000 swab tests have been completed, more than 20,000 vaccines given, over 100 Paxlovid prescriptions dispensed, not to mention the thousands of lollipops, candy canes, stickers and finger puppets that have been handed out to help comfort some of the youngest visitors to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre.
The Kingston and surrounding communities have been equally supportive and appreciative of the work of the COVID-19 Assessment Centre, showing support through food donations, coffee drops off, letters and cards. Students from John XXIII, Winston Churchill P.S., Mother Theresa, and École Catholique Cathédrale even sent artwork and cards to say thank you to staff.
“The work of everyone involved in the Assessment Centre has been amazing. The long days as well as the uncertainty that you all faced and overcame should certainly not go unnoticed. Congratulations to all." - anonymous
With the final swabs packed away and signage removed from the walls of the Beechgrove complex, it’s an emotional period of time for everyone who was involved with the incredible team. Long days, changing testing requirements, the uncertainty of dealing with new variants have helped to bring an entire group of people from across our region to work together to deliver on one goal: provide the best care possible for our community.
On a final note, thank you. Thank you to the community who helped to pivot and support the work of the Assessment Centre through the many changes that the past three years have given during the pandemic. Thank you to the outstanding community partners who helped ensure that all community members were receiving the appropriate support where and how they needed. And finally, thank you to the many team members past and current who showed up with smiles on their face every day to help provide care for the community when it was needed the most.
To learn more about where you can access COVID-19 testing and vaccination in the community, please click here.