Frequently asked questions - COVID-19

We understand that the emergence of COVID-19 has caused some fear and uncertainty for people who need to come to the hospital for care. We want to provide you with as much information as possible to assure you that you can continue to count on us for your healthcare needs.

The emergence of COVID-19 in Ontario has required all hospitals across Ontario to make a number of changes. These changes mean that the way you or your loved ones access the hospital will be different from our usual practices. Together with our Patient Experience Advisors – teams of volunteers who bring the patient and family voice to the work we do at KHSC – we have created this information to help you understand the temporary changes that are in place.

 

Coming to KHSC during COVID

What is Screening?

Screening is the process whereby we ask every person coming to our hospital – including patients, family members, staff, physicians and people delivering our medical and other supplies – to answer a series of questions before they enter that help us make sure that the risk of them being sick with COVID-19 or exposed to COVID-19 is low. To learn more about screening including a complete list of screening questions, click here.

Which entrance should I use?

Each of our hospital sites now has specific entrances that must be used by patients and families.

At our Hotel Dieu Hospital site:

  • All outpatients and surgery patients should go to the main entrance on Brock Street for screening and entry
  • Patients going to the Urgent Care Centre (UCC) will be able to use the regular UCC entrance at Brock Street near Bagot Street and will be screened upon entry

At our KGH site:

  • All patients for the Cancer Centre and Renal outpatient program should go to the Burr entrance off King Street for screening and entry
  • All emergency patients should go to the main emergency department entrance off King Street and they will be screened upon entry
  • All other patients and families should go to the main Davies entrance off Stuart Street for screening and entry

Why do I have to use hand sanitizer when I enter the hospital?

We know that washing our hands is one of the best ways to prevent us from moving germs from things we touch to our bodies through contact with our eyes, nose, mouth or face. We ask everyone to wash their hands with hand sanitizer every time they enter our hospital. You should also wash (using soap and water) or sanitize your hands again after touching surfaces, touching your face or mask, after coughing or sneezing, before eating, after using the washroom, or when hands look dirty.

Does KHSC practice universal masking?

Anyone coming to KHSC for an outpatient clinic/procedure appointment or as an essential visitor must wear a mask or face covering. We ask patients and visitors to bring their own masks/face covering. If this is not possible, then a mask will be provided at the screening station. Staff, physicians and learners working in patient care areas must also wear a mask at all times. Staff in non-clinical areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained for prolonged periods with other staff, patients or visitors will wear a mask as needed. It does not mean that a staff member is sick or unhealthy if he or she is wearing a mask. Wearing a mask is one measure being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Am I required or allowed to wear my own mask if I am coming to any of KHSC’s sites for care?

You are required to wear a mask or face covering. You can bring your own mask and we appreciate your doing this; it will help us to conserve our supply of face masks. If you are unable to bring a mask, then we will provide you with one at the entrance screening station.

 

Changes to Visitor and Family Presence Policy

What is family presence?

At KHSC, we believe that family members are not just visitors in a patient’s life – they are essential partners in care. We use the term family presence to distinguish between a patient’s key loved ones (those whom a patient considers their family and who may be caregivers) from more casual friends and acquaintances such as coworkers, neighbours or others that might be considered “visitors”.

Why have we made these changes to our policy?

All Ontario hospitals were asked in mid-March by the Chief Medical Officer of Health of the province to restrict visitors (i.e. limit family presence) in order to help protect patients and staff from COVID-19. It is important to reduce the number of people inside our hospital sites so that we can reduce the risk of infectious disease being spread and practice physical distancing to the best of our abilities. These temporary measures are still in place to help keep our hospital sites safe for our patients and our staff. It is important that we reduce the risk of bringing COVID-19 into our hospital so that we can continue to provide care to patients from across our region.

Is the KHSC family presence policy aligned with a provincial directive?

There is currently no provincial directive.  Hospitals are responsible for developing and implementing the safety strategies and policies that work best for their patients, family, staff and community.  At KHSC we have developed our own policy with the guidance and expertise of our infection prevention and control team and in consultation with our Patient and Family Advisory Council.  It’s an evolving policy but our goal is always to balance compassion, clinical need and safety.

When will KHSC go back to the usual policy of encouraging family presence/visitors?

At this time, we do not know when we will be able to relax our current temporary restrictions on family presence or relax the requirements around physical distancing which require us to limit the number of people coming to our sites. There are also still people sick with COVID-19 in communities around Kingston and we care for patients from these communities. We continue to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in our area, in the hospital and in the province as we make decisions, including those about family presence/visitors. We are guided by our experts in Infection Prevention & Control and by recommendations or rules set by the Province of Ontario.

Are there exceptions to the family presence policy?

Exceptions can be made in various instances, e.g., for patients who are actively dying, patients whose safe care relies on having a family member present, pediatric patients and others.  Those exceptions and how they are determined are listed here.  A patient’s clinical team has some flexibility in adjusting the family presence policy based on the clinical needs and well-being of the patient.

Can the role of designated family member for a patient during their hospital instead be shared by family members?  That way, only one person would be present with the patient but it could be a different person every other day.

At present, the designated family member must be registered by the patient’s clinical unit and then screened each time he/she enters the hospital.  Introducing multiple family members into this process could challenge our screening processes and add additional risk. 

Typically, family caregivers (e.g., spouse, children) have been at the bedside to support a loved one with meals or toileting.  With less opportunity to do that because of COVID-19 restrictions, how is that gap being filled? 

We are working hard to understand and respond to patient needs with less access to family caregivers.  We encourage families to speak directly with their loved one’s care team about the patient’s usual needs and a plan to address those in the context of some ongoing temporary restrictions.

We see lots of medical students in patient care areas that continue to restrict family members.  Why are these students not considered a risk to my loved one staying in hospital versus a close family member?

On site, medical students must follow strict safety policies and procedures, including staff screening and appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment.  These measures are designed to keep patients and staff protected from COVID-19.  It’s important to remember that KHSC is an academic hospital that is educating health care professionals of the future, and while some of their education can take place outside the hospital, much of it must happen in clinical teams and on clinical units.  Medical students are a critical part of the health care team whose presence has been shown over and over to enhance the quality of care.

Young adults are not always good at self-advocacy in a health care situation and often need the support of a parent or friend in the ED or Urgent Care.  How can they be supported when family presence is restricted?

We are working to identify ways to support populations who might typically end up in the ED or UCC by ensuring they can access appropriate services and support in the community.  For example, KHSC is operating a COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Queen’s University, where students can benefit from the guidance of the campus Student Wellness Services. Our Detoxification Centre at the HDH site is available to support students who need assessment and monitoring with substance abuse. Patients are encouraged to bring a charged cell phone with them so that if they wish, a family member can participate in care and offer support on the phone when the patient is speaking with the care team.  Broadly, we encourage our patients to bring their smart phones, tablets and chargers to hospital with them so that their families can be included as virtual partners in care.

 

Questions about Inpatient Care (KGH site)

What do I do if my loved one in hospital needs items from home to support safe inpatient care? (e.g. eye-glasses, hearing aids, dentures, personal inhalers, rubber-soled shoes)

When you or a member of the care team in the hospital realize that an important device is required for safe care such as those listed above, the care team will contact a family member (or vice versa) and request the following:

  • A healthy family member who has not traveled outside the country in the past 14 days should place the item in its usual container inside a Ziploc or other sealed, clear bag that is clearly labeled with the patient’s name, room number, patient care unit, and phone number and deliver that to the Davies main entrance on Stuart Street at the KGH site. These items must be bagged and labeled before they are brought to KGH site.
  • When the item arrives, screeners at the front door will call the patient’s unit to request that a member of the team come to the lobby to pick up the item. Where this can’t easily be facilitated, a porter will be asked to deliver the item to the nursing station.
  • When the item arrives at the nursing station and before the item is returned to the patient, we will clean the item with a disinfectant before it is given to the patient.

I would like to send home-made baking or other treats/snacks to my loved one who is a patient at the KGH site, is that allowed?

Unfortunately, we must temporarily ask families not to send any non-essential items in for their loved ones who are patients. As we cannot easily clean baking or other gift items with disinfectant wipes and due to challenges delivering items to busy clinical units, and because we need to reduce the number of people coming to the hospital who aren’t patients, we cannot accept such items at this time.

My loved one who is an inpatient is bored without visits, what can I do to help?

Staff on the units are able to request a free “diversion kit” from the KGH Auxiliary. This includes newspapers or magazines, puzzles or colouring books. If you would like to ask for a kit for your loved one who is a patient, please call the nursing station on your loved one’s unit to request a “diversion kit from the Auxiliary”.

My loved one who is a patient at the KGH site does not have a personal cell phone or iPad with them.  How can I keep in touch with my loved one when I am not able to visit?

There are many ways to stay connected to your loved ones while they are in the hospital. To learn more about these options,  including our Virtual Visits program which provides patients with access to a tablet to make video calls with their friends and family, click here.

 

Questions about Outpatient Visits

My loved one who has an outpatient appointment needs a wheelchair for their clinic visit, what should I do?

The staff in our front lobby can call a porter to take your loved on to his or her appointment safely and return them to the front entrance when their appointment is finished. There is no charge for this service. We ask that you make sure your loved one has your cell phone number so that we can call you when they are ready to be picked up again. If your loved one cannot manage safely without an essential family member (e.g. has confusion or dementia or is very frail), one loved one should accompany the patient.

I am a family member or driver that needs to bring a patient to an appointment at the Hotel Dieu site, the KGH site or the Cancer Centre, where can I go when I am not allowed to come in?

Unfortunately, our temporary restrictions mean that you will need to wait outside of our hospital until the patient you have dropped off is ready to be picked up. Please make sure that you and the person you have dropped off have each other’s cell phone number or a pre-arranged time to meet again outside an entrance.

We have also temporarily installed porta-potties that are checked and cleaned daily in the following locations :

  • At the main entrance of the Hotel Dieu Hospital site (Brock Street)
  • At the main entrance of the Kingston General Hospital site known as the Davies entrance (Stuart Street) and
  • At the Burr entrance of the Cancer Centre at the KGH site (King Street)

I have an appointment scheduled at the hospital but am nervous about COVID-19. Is it still safe for me to come to the hospital?

Yes, it is safe for you to come to the hospital for care. We understand that COVID-19 may cause fear and anxiety for people in our community. KHSC has a series of new procedures in place for patients and staff in order to provide the safest experience possible. If you have an appointment scheduled for you, it means that your care team has decided it is important to see you in person instead of postponing your appointment.

It is important to me to have my family member as part of the discussion with my care team at my scheduled appointment. How can I make that happen if they are not allowed to come with me?

We encourage you to talk to your care team about calling your loved one during your appointment so that they can be part of the discussion with you if you wish. We encourage you to bring a fully charged cell phone or device with you and to know the number of your loved one that you would like to call.

 

Questions about Surgery and Procedures

Is there a chance my surgery will be postponed?

Yes. In order to maintain COVID-19 preparedness, we have to meet requirements set by the province. These include maintaining an adequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the ability to make 15 per cent of intensive care and medicine unit beds in the region available for COVID-19 patients, and have a stable COVID-19 caseload. If we are unable to meet these requirements, we may have to postpone surgeries.

How will KHSC prioritize which surgeries get scheduled first?

Guided by our commitment to patient- and family-centred care, we will prioritize surgeries and procedures based on various criteria such as the condition of patients, risks associated with delaying treatment, and the availability of needed resources including PPE, medications, and postoperative care needs like primary care and home-and-community care. Cardiac, cancer and neurology patients will continue to have time-sensitive needs. Minimally invasive procedures will also be considered because these can be performed with less impact on resources, such as PPE and hospital beds. We are working with our partners to ensure post-operative care, including rehab and home care, is available and coordinated in a timely manner, before surgeries are scheduled. We will continue to use our waitlist management tool to manage the ethical scheduling of priority cases.

My surgery was cancelled as part of the initial pandemic preparations – when will it be rescheduled?

One of the most difficult parts of the patient journey is the time waiting for care, and we are thankful for the cooperation and patience patients and families have shown us during this difficult time. Patients will be contacted by a member of their care team to have their surgeries scheduled. If you have questions or concerns about your care, contact a member of your care team directly.

Will all surgery patients be tested for COVID-19 prior to their surgeries?

All patients will be asked several questions upon entering KHSC’s hospital sites to be screened for COVID-19. The KHSC testing lab has capacity to conduct pre-operative COVID-19 diagnostic testing, but not all surgery patients need to be tested and will only be tested when deemed appropriate by infection prevention and control expertise.

 

Where can I find more information?

For updates and status of the COVID-19 virus, you can visit and of the following websites: