Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Hamilton has opened the doors to its new Viral Clinic. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital quickly set up a temporary respiratory clinic in a large yellow tent in the hospital’s parking lot. It was designed to handle people with respiratory problems and winnow out those who showed signs of being infected with the virus from those with more common forms of illness such as the flu or asthma, or even from healthy clients coming into the hospital for other reasons. Those with symptoms can then be safely treated and tested while other patients are also attended to.
Unfortunately, the highly transmissible virus doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. The silver lining on this dark cloud, however, is that the viral clinic is not going away either and has been permanently incorporated into the hospital facility.
The entry to the clinic is adjacent to Convenient Care, which already provides a lot of outpatient sick care, including care and treatment of upper respiratory infection. Chief Medical Staff Officer Dr. April Weinberger called it a “natural decision” to move the emergency respiratory care into an area where the staff is used to handling that sort of thing.
A person would head for the clinic if they are experiencing any sort of respiratory symptoms such as a cough, congestion, a runny nose, shortness of breath, but also for other things such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fevers and chills, all of which are acute symptoms and can be treated at the Viral Clinic.
The clinic does have the ability to test for COVID-19. Dr. Weinberger said that calling in first is the recommended procedure. By making appointments, congestion and waiting at the clinic can be minimized. Generally, the calls lead to same-day appointments. At the clinic, anyone showing symptoms is ushered into the Viral Clinic. Weinberger said that people who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and want to be tested need to contact the Public Health Department. She said that department would help them decide if their potential exposure was serious enough to warrant testing. She said anyone should probably first call their primary care doctor.
“If you’ve got symptoms,” said Weinberger, “the Viral Clinic is where you want to go.”
When you get to the hospital just follow the purple signs. There are dedicated parking spots at the clinic and curbside services. If a person is showing symptoms and it is determined that they may be COVID-19 positive, a test may be administered without the patient leaving their vehicle. It is part of the effort at keeping people who are not infected as safe as possible.
The clinic also tests for flu and Weinberger cautioned that getting a flu vaccination this season is extremely important since so much is unknown about how the flu may react with a COVID-19 infection.
“The fact is,” said Weinberger, “we have always needed this. We have always needed a place where people can receive safe care without getting infected or infecting others.” She said that this system works well with all sorts of infections including the flu and is going to be a longstanding benefit for a long period of time.
Weinberger said that with COVID-19 out there in the community it was more important than ever for people to maintain social distance, wear masks to help prevent spread, wash your hands and help support your local health care workers so they can continue to provide their services.