London’s COVID-19 assessment centre is expanding to treat people with seasonal cold and flu, a move officials hope will divert some patients from overrun hospital emergency rooms.
The assessment centre, which relocated to a building on the Victoria Hospital property this fall, has transitioned to a COVID, cold and flu care clinic starting Friday, London Health Sciences Centre and the Middlesex London Ontario Health Team said.
The clinic will assess, test and treat patients with COVID, cold and flu symptoms, including fever, chills, difficulty breathing, nasal congestion, muscle aches and sore throat.
In recent weeks, the COVID-only clinic had been handling about 35 appointments a day, but will ramp up to see up to 125 patients a day in its expanded role, LHSC said Friday.
Though children’s hospitals provincewide have been struggling to cope with a crush of respiratory illnesses this fall, only adults can make an appointment at the clinic located in Building 24, near the intersection of Commissioners and Western Counties roads.
The clinic is expected to begin serving pediatric patients “in the near future,” the hospital said.
COVID-19 cases in London and Middlesex County have been declining since late October, but other respiratory illnesses, particularly flu, have roared in earlier and more intensely than other years.
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The Middlesex-London Health Unit has reported 204 lab-confirmed influenza cases and three deaths since the seasonal surveillance started Aug. 28. At this point in the 2019 flu season, the last without pandemic restrictions in place, the health unit had reported three cases and no deaths.
People who do not have a family doctor, are at high risk of severe complications from COVID-19, feel their symptoms are worsening and need medical attention, or who have been told to go to the clinic by a doctor or nurse are encouraged to book an appointment, LHSC officials said in a statement Friday.
The clinic offers patients COVID-19 assessment and lab-based testing, cold and flu assessment and medical guidance, which could include advice for next steps or treatment.
London is not the only city in the province to expand the scope of its COVID-19 assessment centre to other seasonal respiratory illnesses. Others, including clinics in Windsor and Toronto, have done the same this fall.
“We are well equipped to expand the services offered at the assessment centre and help relieve some of the pressures currently in our adult EDs (emergency departments),” Victoria Hospital president Deborah Wiseman said in a news release Friday. “We welcome the government’s approach to expanding services at all assessment centres across the province in an effort to support London area families this season, and alleviate the pressures felt by our ED teams.”
Wait times at LHSC’s emergency rooms have topped 20 hours this fall for non-urgent patients, while the Children’s Hospital emergency room has seen wait times average six to eight hours while capacity hit 115 per cent.
LHSC is urging people to contact their family doctor or nurse practitioner first before seeking other medical care. These primary care providers may refer people to the COVID, cold and flu care clinic.
The clinic is open seven days a week from 9:20 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and appointments must be made in advance online at covidtestinglm.ca or by calling 519-685-8500 ext. 75503.