Lakeridge Health Telephone Town Hall

Lakeridge Health's Telephone Town Hall

Durham residents were invited to attend a Live Telephone Town Hall on Monday, November 23 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. to learn more ABOUT THE DELIVERY OF HEALTH CARE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN DURHAM REGION from Lakeridge Health and community leaders.

Lakeridge Health Interim President & CEO Susan deRyk, Chief of Staff Dr. Tony Stone, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control Dr. Dan Ricciuto, and special guest Medical Officer of Health for Durham Region Dr. Robert Kyle, updated community members on key topics including dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic, increased access to home and community care, new mental health services, and the expansion of Lakeridge Health’s facilities and services. During the interactive session, participants were asked for their input on important health care questions through instant polling. The event was hosted by Jerry Archer of KX96 Radio.

To listen to the full recording and highlights, please visit this site.

A summary of the Q&A session can be found below.

If you wish to be contacted about future Telephone Town Halls or to receive updates from Lakeridge Health, please send us an email with your name and phone number at

 Lakeridge Health Telephone Town Hall Questions/Answers

Q1. Durham Region is now in the “Red Zone.” What does this mean? When will we go into a lock-down like Toronto and Peel Regions?
In early November, the government took more measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our province through the release of a COVD-19 Response Framework. After feedback from Public Health and medical advisors, the provincial framework lowered the thresholds for each level, enabling stricter measures to be put in place for some communities that are seeing a high case count.

The framework takes a gradual approach that includes introducing preventative measures earlier to help avoid broader closures and allow for additional public health and workplace safety measures to be introduced or removed incrementally. It categorizes public health unit regions into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown being a measure of last and urgent resort.

Durham Region is in the “Red Zone” or “Control” phase. This means that there are broader-scale measures and restrictions across multiple sectors to control the transmission of COVID-19. This is one step before the “Grey” or “Lockdown” phase and restrictions are the most severe before widescale business or organizational closure, such as the case in Toronto and Peel Regions. For more on the Red Zone, visit the Ministry site.

With case counts rising quickly in Toronto and Peel, the Ontario government decided to move those regions into the “Grey zone.” Should trends continue to worsen after the more restricted measures in Durham Region, the province may also make the decision to move Durham Region in the “Grey” or “Lockdown” phase.

For more information about the Red Zone and what it means for Durham Region residents, visit Durham Region Public Health.

Q2. What are the implications of a lockdown in Toronto and Peel on Durham Region?
With our GTA neighbours in Toronto and Peel region in lockdown, this could mean a higher number of people from those regions coming to Durham Region to shop, receive services or dine out. We must continue to be vigilant, washing hands regularly, wearing a mask in all commercial indoor spaces and when physical distancing with anyone outside your household is challenging indoors and outdoors.

Q3. As Durham Region goes into the Red Zone, what capacity does Lakeridge Health have for COVID-19 patients? And are we at capacity now?
Over the summer, Lakeridge Health has made plans to ensure appropriate capacity for COVID-19 patients. Because of this extensive planning and preparation with our provincial and local government and community partners Lakeridge Health will be able to quickly and effectively respond to a surge in capacity needs should the situation call for more resources dedicated to manage COVID-19 cases. During Wave 1, Lakeridge Health established four COVID-19 units at Ajax Pickering and Oshawa Hospitals. Work is underway to identify a second unit at each for the two sites.

Q4. What are wait times for medical procedures offered during COVID-19?
During the first wave of the pandemic, Lakeridge Health, like many other hospitals in Ontario, significantly reduced some services. After careful planning, over the summer, we began to ramp up services as fast as it has been safe to do so. This includes surgeries and ambulatory services. As we move through Wave 2, we are continually monitoring the pandemic situation and can quickly ramp down, or decrease some activities, should it be required due to a significant surge in patient cases within the hospital. While a large number of services are operating as per usual, there are some services that will have some wait times. It is best to speak with your care provider to find out the details of specific medical procedures.

Q5. Is there a difference between a throat swab or nasal swab?
There are various swabs for COVID-19 testing and our supply has fluctuated between those used for Nasopharyngeal (NP) swabbing and those used for Oropharyngeal (throat) & Mid-turbinate (nasal) swabbing. Both sampling methods are effective.

Q6. What special procedures are put in place to help address any outbreaks that may happen in long-term care?
During WAVE 1, the COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on a number of long-term care and retirement homes in Durham Region and across Ontario. Given the volume of guidance, Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) resources and direction that homes have received since the start of the pandemic, Public Health Ontario has created this key document which compiles important resources and information on preventing and managing the spread of COVID-19 on long-term care and retirement homes in Ontario. For a brief look at some of the procedures in place to address any outbreaks, please read Public Health Ontario’s “At a Glance” guide.

Q7. When will COVID-19 vaccines be available in Durham Region?
There is some promising research underway related to both drug treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19.
At this time, there are three major companies that have been in the news headlines lately whose early studies have shown high efficacy rates. While this is very hopeful, there are several steps to go through before we get to the point of distribution. Both levels of government continue to work through the logistics of storage and distribution. Here in Durham Region and at Lakeridge Health, discussions and planning are underway related to the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine. Please know this is in the very early stages and we continue to work with our provincial and federal partners.

Q8. And how long will it take for the vaccine to take effect and have herd immunity?
The science around a vaccine, herd immunity and COVID-19 is still very new. According to the World Health Organization, researchers are still learning about immunity to COVID-19. Most people who are infected with COVID-19 develop an immune response within the first few weeks, but we do not know how long or lasting that immune response is or how it differs for different people. Until we better understand COVID-19 immunity, it is challenging to know how much of a population is immune and how long that immunity could last for.

Q9. Can a test be done to find out if I actually had COVID-19?
Antibody tests check a person’s blood by looking for antibodies which could indicate a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins that help fight off an infection and provide protection against contracting that disease again. There are a few companies that offer antibody testing which checks for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies. When these antibodies are found, it means an individual had a COVID-19 infection.

According to Public Health Ontario, at an individual level, antibodies may assist in understanding if someone had COVID-19. However, not enough is known currently about COVID-19 immunity to determine if the antibody response indicates whether a person is immune to COVID-19 and, if it does, how much immunity that provides and for how long.

At present, this antibody test is not available at Lakeridge Health.

Q10. Is Lakeridge Health reporting tests being done on a daily basis?
Lakeridge Health collects the number of tests completed across the Durham Region COVID-19 Assessment Centres each day and reports to Public Health Ontario. This number is included in the province’s daily roundup of tests completed which is reported in the daily epidemiological summary. Visit the Public Health Ontario site for more details on the number of tests done per day.

Q11. What’s the severity of COVID-19 in various age brackets?
While COVID-19 can lead to hospitalization and even death for young and middle-aged adults, it has caused the most severe health issues for adults over the age of 60, with fatal results for those 80 years and older. Individuals in the older age brackets tend to have a higher number of chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease which can lead to more intense symptoms and complications in the disease. Also, as people age, their immune system gradually loses its resiliency, meaning that older adults are more susceptible to infection of any kind, especially new ones like COVID-19.
Regardless of age, frequent and thorough handwashing, masking in indoor commercial spaces, physical distancing with others outside of your household and avoiding large gatherings are a few precautions we can all take to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Q12. Did Lakeridge Health receive financial assistance from the federal government? If so, how much did Lakeridge Health receive?
Like hospitals across the province, Lakeridge Health is identifying all costs associated with COVID-19 and with our support to long-term care homes. While we do not know exactly which expenditures will be reimbursed - this will be determined when we are further along in the pandemic response and reopening process – Lakeridge Health is providing a comprehensive list of the additional costs and resources that have been invested to keep staff and patients safe and respond to the pandemic.

Q13. A lot of people are not wearing masks over their noses, how can people learn how to properly wear a mask?
There are a number of very helpful guides to educate people on how to properly use a mask. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 strong public health actions, such as wearing a non-medical mask or face covering, are needed. Like many regions in Ontario, the use of cloth or non-medical masks are mandatory for use in Durham Region. To read more about where masks must be used and how to select the best mask, please visit Durham Region Public Health’s special page on masking.

Q14. Why are screeners not taking temperature checks at the hospital?
Every individual who enters a Lakeridge Health hospital will be actively screened for COVID-19 at all entrances. This includes being asked a specific set of screening questions. No temperature is taken because for a great proportion of the population, a temperature check does not provide an accurate gauge of the presence of the virus. Therefore, we are focusing instead on the other risk factors and symptom screening.

Q15. I’m terrified of coming to hospital, what should I do?
Lakeridge Health emergency departments are open 24/7 to provide urgent and acute care to anyone who needs it. If your symptoms worsen please do not delay and head to the emergency department.

During the pandemic, Lakeridge Health leveraged virtual care and connections and many of the programs including those in mental health or some out-patient and support services have done virtual appointments with patients.

If you are concerned for your safety at this time, please speak to your care provider about the possibility of virtual care options for your treatment or service.

Q16. I am the primary care giver for my mother who has tested positive for COVID-19. I have tested negative. Can I go into her home and care for her?
If you provide care for, live with, or have similar close contact with someone who is being tested for, or has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you will be advised to self-isolate and remain in self-isolation for 14-days from your last potential exposure to COVID-19. Durham Region Health Department will contact you to monitor for signs and symptoms until you are no longer on self-isolation. For more information, visit Durham Region Public Health.

Q17. Why are we allowing COVID-19 positive patients from outside Durham Region into Lakeridge Health hospitals?
In usual situations, there are many instances when patients from outside Durham Region would be admitted to Lakeridge Health hospitals. For example, Lakeridge Health may have a specific service or specialty or perhaps may have more capacity than another facility. For similar reasons, sometimes patients at Lakeridge Health may need to be transferred to hospitals outside Durham Region.
Currently, some regions close to Durham Region are experiencing higher case counts than Durham Region. As a collaborative system-leader, Lakeridge Health is always ready to assist our partners should the need arise, particularly when we may have the resources and capacity.

Q18. What rules should we follow when it comes to the number of people at gatherings?
The season of social gatherings is here, but this year, we all know it will be quite different. With COVID-19 still a huge part of our lives, we all must continue doing our part to protect each other by remembering to follow all public health measures of physical distancing, masking at all times in public indoor spaces or when physical distancing is challenging, and regular hand washing.

The safest way to celebrate with family and friends outside of your household this year is to gather virtually. For students coming home from university, we recommend that they self-isolate as best as possible in the 14-days prior to coming home and avoid any group gathering or unmasked exposures.

Also, if at any time people feel any symptoms of COVID-19 and/or feel unwell, they should self-isolate and be tested for COVID-19 right away. Delaying a test could potentially spread the virus as the virus is most infectious in the first 5 days of illness. If people are awaiting their appointment and/or the COVID-19 test results, they will need to self-isolate to also prevent any spread of the virus.

Q19. How can you prevent situations where, when you call Telehealth Ontario, they advise you to call an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) right away, but when the Paramedics arrive, they say there was no need for their services?
Telehealth Ontario is a free, confidential service you can call to receive health advice or information. A Registered Nurse will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1-866-797-0000. Assistance is available in more than 300 languages.

If you have a serious medical emergency where Telehealth advises you to call EMS, do not feel bad about doing so. EMS has highly trained and skilled paramedics that can evaluate you. If you are ever in doubt, you should always feel comfortable calling EMS.

Q20. What are you doing to improve and expand mental health services in Durham Region?
At Lakeridge Health, our Mental Health and Pinewood addictions programs help adults, youth and women work through their challenges with addictions and/or mental health.

In addition, on October 1, Lakeridge Health integrated with Durham Mental Health Services (DMHS), which offers a range of mental health services, at locations throughout Durham Region.

For more information visit our website.

Q21. How can I find a family physician? My husband and I moved to Oshawa two years ago and have been unable to find a family physician in the area.
Below are two options to find a family doctor or nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients:

  1. Register with the Ontario government’s Health Care Connect service and have a nurse find a doctor or nurse practitioner for you.
  2. Use the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s Find a Doctor search.
    • choose “Advanced Search” to find a doctor near you (by city/town or postal code)
    • click on “Additional Search Options” to narrow your search (to family doctors and/or language spoken)
    • contact the doctor to check if they are accepting new patients

Q22. How can I get my flu shot this season?
During flu season you can get a free flu shot from:

Children six months to four years old can get their flu shot from a doctor, nurse practitioner or local public health unit. Children under five years old cannot get a flu shot at a pharmacy.

Q23. Is Lakeridge Health going to expand and will the Whitby Hospital be expanded with an Emergency Department and other services?
Our Whitby Hospital is a specialty hospital that provides high quality, specialized care to residents who live in Whitby and Durham Region. Services include:

  • Dialysis and Kidney Care
  • Diabetes Education
  • Outpatient Rehabilitation Services
  • Neurological Rehabilitation
  • Positive Care Clinic, Respiratory Rehabilitation
  • Complex Continuing Care
  • Geriatric Rehabilitation and Assessment

We have several exciting projects underway to expand our services. In 2019, the Ontario Government confirmed its commitment to redeveloping Bowmanville Hospital. We continue to work with our government partners to move the project through the multi-step hospital capital approval process.

In July 2020, the Ontario Government announced a collaborative partnership with Lakeridge Health and Infrastructure Ontario to build a new, modern long-term care (LTC) home on the site of the Ajax Pickering Hospital using an accelerated build process. The new LTC home with up to 320 beds will be built by 2021 using an innovative design/build process.

We've also begun construction of the much-anticipated Jerry Coughlan Health and Wellness Centre. The new, outpatient medical and community health centre will be located in the rapidly growing community of North Pickering. The four-storey centre will provide day surgery procedures and other Lakeridge Health services, an urgent care clinic, along with a range of diagnostic and laboratory tests, physicians’ offices, and a pharmacy within a state-of-the-art, patient-centred setting. This integrated model will support patients from across Durham Region to seamlessly transition between the hospital and community health and physician services, enhancing the experience for the patient and care team.

Archived Telephone Town Hall Recordings

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