Mark Clairmont |

MUSKOKA — As of Tuesday, hospitals will restrict non-essential visitors to Muskoka hospitals.

Monday, Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) said exceptions include special situations (obstetrical patients) and compassionate circumstances (palliative, critical patients).

It also says it may need to further restrict visitors to the hospital in the future if community spread of COVID-19 increases.

Meanwhile, it says elective surgeries are continuing as planned, even as the province has asked hospitals to limit the number.

“We are limiting visitors to ensure we protect our patients, staff, physicians and volunteers,” said Terry Shields, chief financial officer and acting CEO.

“The COVID-19 situation changes every day and limiting visitors reduces risk to the most vulnerable entrusted to our care.”

Over the past several weeks, MAHC says it has implemented enhanced screening protocols and infection prevention practices in line with direction from the Ministry of Health and public health.

Most recently, entrance monitors have been introduced at the entrances to complete preliminary screening of everyone entering the hospitals. This includes preliminary questions about symptoms and recent travel.

“There may be line-ups, so please be patient with the screening questions as we take this precautionary measure to ensure people clean their hands and wear masks when they are sick,” said Shields in a release late Monday morning.

“If someone exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 and a travel history to an impacted area, the person would be further assessed in the Emergency Dept. to see if they meet the criteria for testing. Our clinicians are adhering to the guidelines for testing from public health even as they change.”

In co-operation with hospital preparedness, MAHC says it has been working collaboratively with community health care partners, including Muskoka Paramedic Services, nurse practitioner, and family physicians from the local Family Health Teams, to create capacity in the community for screening and testing so the Emergency Depts. can continue to focus on emergency care. Muskoka awaits approval from Ontario Health to open community assessment/treatment centres in the region – one in Bracebridge and one in Huntsville.

At the time of this release, outpatient clinics, appointments and elective surgery continues.

This could change in the near future as we continue to evaluate the changing situation in our region and province. Stay up to date on the COVID-19 situation and any changes to hospital services at MAHC including more frequently asked questions.

Muskoka’s two hospitals will also continue with elective surgeries.

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