IPAC professionals on constant high alert for outbreaks of disease at all times

When news of a novel corona virus, a virus not identified in people before, began to circulate within the medical community it caught the attention of our Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) staff. These specialized healthcare workers are on constant alert for any outbreaks of infection within the Hospital. Their vigilant surveillance is usually centred on established threats like C. difficile. What was this emerging threat? What if it hits Guelph General Hospital?

The IPAC team immediately began to scour the available science to understand how this virus spread and what would need to be put in place for screening to keep staff and patients safe. Networking with other IPAC program professionals at hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area helped our team to develop the initial guidelines we used in response to this new virus, now called COVID-19. Directives from the Ontario Ministry of Health provided more clarification on symptomology, spread and required personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent transmission.

Even before a pandemic was declared, IPAC led an internal COVID-19 Committee comprised of clinical, patient support and administration representatives. As the situation worsened globally this committee determined it was time to activate our Incident Management System, or IMS. This group met for the first time on March 13.

IMS is activated in times of emergency and includes the senior management of the Hospital, such as the president, chief of staff and the clinical directors. Quickly, everyone realized how rapidly the situation was developing and worked intensely to prepare our teams within the Hospital. To provide a sense of scale for this effort they had already met 50 times, by teleconference before June 2.

Our IPAC team, worked tirelessly to communicate the scientific evidence to their healthcare colleagues and to keep up with the assessments required by our COVID-suspect and COVID-positive patients who were all placed in isolation. With the expansion of the possible symptoms in early May, a large number of patients were in isolation throughout the Hospital posing a real challenge for IPAC. In order to discontinue isolation, IPAC must assess the patient, including symptoms and diagnostic test results to ensure that risk of transmission of communicable disease is minimized.

One positive outcome from this pandemic, is that it confirmed the importance of infection control and the need to ensure that IPAC has adequate resources to effectively manage infection control at GGH. We realize community members are nervous at the prospect of having to be admitted to the Hospital at this time. Please be reassured our IPAC professionals are on constant high alert for COVID and all possible outbreaks of disease at all times. They are guided by rigorous scientific research and evidence and are putting in to place all of the systems to keep you safe, along with their interdisciplinary colleagues. We remain super proud of our team at Guelph General Hospital.

This story originated on Guelph General Hospital’s Facebook page on September 1st, 2020 as part of its #behindthemask series to share how the Hospital is working hard to protect patients and visitors from #COVID19.