Do you still need a mask at the hospital in Ontario?

Hospitals in the Toronto area will continue to enforce mask policies, despite the provincial mandate requiring them to expire this weekend.

Of the 17 hospitals and health systems the Star has contacted — from downtown Toronto locations operated by the University Health Network to Mackenzie Health’s Richmond Hill and Vaughan campuses — all are making masks mandatory for the foreseeable future. staff and visitors.

Others enforcing mask policies include the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, Trillium Health Partners, Sinai Health System, Women’s College Hospital, the Scarborough Health Network, the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) , Netherlands Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Michael Garron Hospital and North York General Hospital. Humber River Hospital, William Osler Health System, Unity Health Toronto, including St. Joseph’s Health Center and St. Michael’s Hospital, and Oak Valley Health, including Markham Stouffville Hospital, and Southlake Regional Health Center in Newmarket, will also continue to require masks.

“I suspect the vast majority of institutions will abide by the requirement… to protect the most vulnerable,” including cancer patients and people with compromised immune systems, said Dr. Fahad Razak, Scientific Director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

“It also protects the system,” he said, noting that universal masking by health professionals, staff and visitors reduces the chance of transmitting COVID-19, preventing staff absences. This is an important consideration “when things are as stretched as they are,” Razak said, pointing to a health care system that is still reeling from the pandemic.

As of Saturday, masks will no longer be required by the province in most of the last places where they were required, including public transportation, hospitals and other health care facilities, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health announced in a press release on Wednesday.

They will still be needed in long-term care and retirement homes. And organizations can have their own masking policies even when this provincial mandate expires.

Razak, also a general internist at St. Michael’s Hospital, said expanding the county-wide mandate would have helped reduce institution-to-institute variability, avoiding a situation “when you have a patient or a visitor who says, “Why do you need masking? when another setting isn’t?”

“There’s already such tension around so much of the pandemic that just having a broad (masking) requirement helps.”

Toronto-area hospitals contacted by the Star had similar reasons for going ahead with universal masking, primarily to protect the most vulnerable, including those receiving cancer treatment, immunocompromised and other at-risk patients.

“Hospitals are high-risk settings as many of our patients are at increased risk for serious outcomes,” said Barb Collins, president and CEO of Humber River Hospital, in an email.

Humber River will continue to mask at its three sites “for the foreseeable future,” she said, because it is “an effective way for us to ensure a safe environment for both our patients and staff and reduce the risk of transmission and outbreaks. ”

At SickKids, the patients are “uniquely vulnerable” because not all of them are old enough to be vaccinated, and many are immunocompromised, spokesperson Jessamine Luck said in an email.

“For those reasons, we remain cautious with our security measures and will continue to demand universal masking after June 11.”

A statement from Trillium Health Partners said that in addition to expanding its masking policy — “an essential part of our ongoing pandemic response” — it will also ask visitors to self-screen for COVID symptoms and “avoid coming to THP if they feel unwell.” have been exposed to COVID-19 or have tested positive in the past 10 days.”

Some general practitioners will continue to require face masks after June 11.

dr. Allan Grill, chief physician of the Markham Family Health Team, said masks will still be needed at their clinic.

“This means that all staff and patients entering or entering the facility will be masked, or at the very least asked to wear a mask,” he said, adding that they will not refuse care if individuals will not wear one. Instead, they will look for ways to treat them away from others, such as putting them in private rooms, he said.

Many patients are at high risk, but can also have COVID and not even know it, he added. Many employees have also become ill due to the illness, which causes disruptions.

“The vast majority of patients understand why we do what we do; it’s for their own safety,” Grill said.

Razak said that while he believes Ontario’s remaining mask mandates should have been extended, followed by a new review period, he acknowledged that there are no clear parameters, such as infection or hospitalization rates, that suggest an optimal time to release the mask. lift.

He said retaining masks in transit would have provided another level of protection for people in a “situation where people are very close together and ventilation is inconsistent”.

Peterborough Public Health announced Thursday that it will continue to mandate masks in its health clinics, including COVID vaccine clinics and its sexual health clinic, as well as in unit reception areas.

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