NSHA operational update, Tuesday March 24

Please visit www.nshealth.ca/coronavirus for regular updates and www.nshealth.ca/temporaryclosures for additional closures and cancellations. 

Mental Health and Addictions

NSHA’s Mental Health and Addictions Programs staff, teams, and physicians are dedicated to provide the best care and support possible to our patients, families, and communities. Our services and how we deliver them will change during the pandemic, but our dedication to respond with high quality care will not.
 
As in many areas of health care, we have already paused all group-based therapies and group programming, to support public protection measures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. 
 
We know that many individuals who have pre-existing mental health conditions, or substance use disorders are at increased risk during this time. We have begun and will continue to transition one-to-one treatment and therapy to be primarily offered using the phone or video platform, if available. We call this Tele-mental health. Tele-mental health has been shown to be as effective as face-to-face services, empowering for clients and patients, and to have high satisfaction rates in terms of the experience for people and their families. The exception to this would be when a person’s needs require face-to-face assessment or treatment – this is a decision made by the provider and the patient.
 
Our Intake Service for Community Mental Health and Addictions clinics, Withdrawal Management Services, Opioid Replacement and Treatment Program is available weekdays, 8:30-4:30. Please call toll-free 1-855-922-1212. This line has voicemail only evenings, weekends, and statutory holidays. 
 
The Mental Health Provincial Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to anyone experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis or someone concerned about them, by calling toll-free 1-888-429-8167. 
 
Kids Help Phone is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by calling 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free).  
 
 
If you have any questions about your pre-booked appointment or would like to talk with your clinician about a phone or video consultation, please contact your clinic.
 
As this situation continues to evolve, we will provide updates as soon as possible.

Cancer care

NSHA’s Cancer Care Program is dedicated to maintaining cancer services to the greatest extent possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Currently, all outpatient services in medical, radiation and gynecologic oncology, as well as hematology, including chemotherapy and radiation treatments, will be continuing to provide clinical services but minimizing patients coming to the hospital when safe and possible. Patients with appointments in medical, hematologic and gynecologic oncology may receive a telephone call from the cancer centre or clinic prior to any scheduled appointments advising if the appointment has been changed to a telephone or video appointment. All patients scheduled for radiation therapy will go ahead as planned.
 
NSHA is working on a process to continue cancer surgeries, as possible. All scheduled cancer and non-cancer surgeries are being reviewed to ensure we are able to provide the best cancer surgery services possible within resource limitations due to COVID-19. Patients will be contacted if there are changes to their surgery dates.

Northside General Hospital Emergency Department closed indefinitely

The emergency department at Northside General Hospital will remain closed until further notice. The emergency department was scheduled to resume operations on Thursday, March 26, at 8 a.m. The closure is due to the lack of stability in physician coverage and the need to direct physician and nursing resources to other health care needs. 
 
Those experiencing a medical emergency should always call 911. For non-emergency health advice from a registered nurse, please call 811. The provincial Mental Health Crisis Line also operates 24/7 at 1-888-429-8167.

CBRH Ambulatory Care scheduled appointments relocating to New Waterford 

Scheduled ambulatory care clinic appointments at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital (CBRH) will temporarily relocate to the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital effective Wednesday, March 25. Patients with scheduled ambulatory care appointments will be directly notified. 
 
The ambulatory care clinic at CBRH will offer urgent services only (IV antibiotics, blood transfusions, etc.). 

Blood collection

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in NS, Laboratory Services are required to scale back non-urgent work in order to focus on COVID-19 testing and sustain ongoing critical operations to support patient care. As a result, physicians are being asked to restrict orders for all non-urgent laboratory testing. Any laboratory testing that can be deferred should be, however, time-sensitive testing required for treatment and diagnosis (e.g. cancer, renal, INR, etc.) will continue to be performed. Patients who currently have requisitions for routine bloodwork are advised to contact their ordering physician or nurse practitioner for direction regarding their laboratory testing.
 
Out-patient blood collection services will not close completely however, services will be reduced (i.e. reduction in hours and number of locations). Details regarding these changes will be communicated as soon as they are available.

Sites designated for care of inpatient care of patients with COVID-19

NSHA is working to create provincial capacity for in-hospital care for COVID-19 patients who may require it. Our planning and response includes: Primary Assessment Centres for people referred by 811; Secondary Assessment Centres in regional hospitals for patients requiring some care & treatment, and COVID inpatient units for patients requiring admission. 
 
The following hospitals have been designated, and are prepared to host COVID-19 inpatients:
  • QEII-Halifax Infirmary site
  • Dartmouth General Hospital
  • Yarmouth Regional Hospital
  • Cape Breton Regional Hospital
  • St. Martha’s Regional Hospital
  • Colchester East Hants Health Centre
Units have been identified based on criteria such as access to negative pressure rooms, proximity to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), etc. Other COVID-19 units may be identified as the situation evolves.
 
Work will continue to make sure units are ready, and staff are appropriately trained and prepared to run the unit and safely care for patients. 

Assessment Centres

COVID-19 Assessment Centres are now operating in 14 locations around Nova Scotia. Some have shifted location from their original sites. Up to date location information is available here www.nshealth.ca/coronavirus-assessment. Do not attend an assessment centre without having been directed to do so by 811. 

Patient privacy

The privacy of our patients, their families and our health care providers remain of upmost importance during this challenging time. Despite the high public interest in COVID-19 and the services we are providing in response, we ask visitors, patients and staff to continue to respect the privacy of people using and involved in these services and refrain from taking photos or sharing information about what you may see or hear during while using and providing services. Look to official sources such as novascotia.ca/coronavirus/ for information and avoid circulating rumours. 

Facility entrances

In connection with previously-announced visitor restrictions, please be aware that some facilities have reduced the number of public entrances to be able to better control access to the sites.

Border closures

NSHA employees who have to cross a provincial border on a regular and ongoing basis for work are exempt from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days. For Nova Scotia patients who need treatment in New Brunswick, they and one accompanying companion are exempt.

Parking

Parking for staff and patients at NSHA sites has been made free. This is in recognition of the extra commitment to patient care of staff and physicians during COVID-19. We ask the general public to respect that parking at health care facilities is reserved for those using and working in those facilities. Television services for inpatients have also been made free.
 
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Media Contact:
Provincial media line: 1-844-483-3344