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Relative return to normal at the Barrie Memorial following outbreak

The outbreak at the Barrie Memorial Hospital (BMH) that started in the first week of December has yet to be declared over, but “it’s been really quiet, COVID-wise, for the past few weeks,” says Dr. Catherine Bélanger, the COVID-19 coordinator for the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network. A total of 19 patients and 38 employees were infected during the outbreak. “It just burned through the place,” Bélanger says of the grave situation, which forced the hospital to halt admissions.

The hospital resumed admitting patients during the week of Dec. 28. Currently, the BMH is serving a role similar to a pressure valve, accepting non-COVID patients from area hospitals dealing with high occupancy rates and crowded hot zones.

The Ormstown Medical Centre has also resumed its pre-outbreak services. However, says Bélanger, “we will be continuing with stricter measures than before to prevent this from happening again.” Most services will be offered over the phone, although doctors will continue to treat patients in person when necessary. For those experiencing COVID- or flu-like symptoms, there is now a designated testing clinic at the Recreation Centre in Ormstown, open Monday to Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

With two of three local outbreaks now contained or over, Bélanger says she is drained. The current outbreak at the Centre d’Hébergement d’Ormstown is the fifth situation in a CHSLD she has faced, and the second as head doctor. “We are drowning in COVID,” she says, referring to last few weeks, in which the area has seen the Barrie Memorial Hospital overwhelmed, the largest medical clinic serving 11,000 patients nearly forced to close, and the area’s largest long-term care centre battling an outbreak.

“There are new cases every day in the community. There is consistent community transmission, and it’s here to stay,” she warns, before imploring people to stop gathering and to get tested if they have symptoms. Even so, “We know there are a lot of asymptomatic cases and pre-symptomatic spread taking place,” she says, noting the outbreaks had driven up the number of cases but that community spread was also an important factor. “It’s bad. What is giving me hope is the lockdown and the vaccine.”

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