A COVID-19 assessment centre is to be set up in the parking lot of the Haliburton Family Medical Centre starting either March 31 or April 1. The centre will be by appointment only. /DARREN LUM Staff

COVID-19 assessment centre in the works for Haliburton

By Jenn Watt

Plans are underway to set-up a COVID-19 assessment centre at the Haliburton Family Medical Centre on Gelert Road starting Tuesday March 31 or Wednesday April 1.

Patients will be seen by appointment only and first must go through the province's online or Telehealth Ontario's telephone screening process. Those who are advised through that process to get an assessment will then call the Haliburton Family Medical Centre to arrange an appointment.

They aren’t yet ready to take appointments said Dr. Norm Bottum of the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team.

“The hope is by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest we will have patients’ appointments and they will be coming through for starters between 12 and 4 [p.m.] each day” he said “and it’ll be an outdoor assessment so patients won’t get out of their car. They’ll be assessed and at that point it’ll be determined whether they need to have a COVID swab done or they need to go to the hospital for assessment or whether they go home and ride it out with phone follow-up.”

Medical professionals will be keeping in touch with those who are advised to go home.

(See the steps Haliburton Highlands Health Services asks you to follow if you think you have COVID-19 symptoms here .)

Setting up the assessment centre outdoors helps reduce the risk that the virus will spread.

“We don’t want people getting out of their cars so they’re not coughing or sneezing on any surfaces; it minimizes the amount of protective equipment the amount of cleaning that we actually have to do if people stay in their cars” Dr. Bottum said.

Not everyone is being tested for the coronavirus in part because of processing capacity of Public Health Ontario and in part because of the availability of test kits.

“Basically at this point only the patients that are the most unwell or at highest risk are going to be swabbed but hopefully we will liberalize that over the next couple weeks” Dr. Bottum said.

Dr. Bottum said it’s likely that Haliburton County will see cases of COVID-19 – there are some tests that are out awaiting results – which is why it’s important to practice social distancing: limiting time in public spaces to only essential trips keeping a two-metre distance from other people coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue and washing your hands regularly and thoroughly.

“Social distancing is so important because people may be carrying it and not be aware of it” he said.

Those who have recently travelled outside Canada have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or who are experiencing symptoms should self-isolate for 14 days. Those with symptoms should seek medical attention over the phone from their health provider. More information here .

The self-assessment for COVID-19 can be found on the Ministry of Health's website or the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s website . Information about the assessment centre will also soon be added to the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team website . Telehealth Ontario can be contacted at 1-866-797-0000 and the HKPR Health Unit's number is 1-866-888-4577 ext. 5020.