Hospitals in Brockville, Smiths Falls loosen masking rules

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Face masks will no longer be required in some areas at two local hospitals, as health care settings throughout the province begin a gradual end to pandemic measures.

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Officials at Brockville General Hospital said Thursday plans are in the works to take “safe gradual steps to reduce the number of precautions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” including masking requirements in some areas of the facility.

“We feel confident the removal of this precaution is a low-risk step to allow more flexibility for our community,” a statement from the hospital reads.

Effective May 30, masks will be optional in the hospital’s public spaces, including hallways, the cafeteria, and elevators.

The change applies to patients, visitors, and health-care workers, officials said.

Mask wearing will still be required in all patient care areas, however, including waiting rooms, clinical units, patient rooms, and clinic rooms. Those visiting a patient will also be asked to wear a mask.

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The policy change will apply to the hospital’s main site on Charles Street, and also at its community locations at the Front Avenue Resources Centre and at Strowger Boulevard.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is also no longer required for visitors or support partners, but a mandate remains in place for employees.

“Thank you to our friends, families and neighbours for protecting each other and our health-care workers during the pandemic,” Nick Vlacholias, president and CEO of the Brockville General said in a statement.

“To protect the most vulnerable in our community, and as a hospital, we hold ourselves to higher standards. However, cautiously lifting some pandemic measures is a positive sign. Brockville General will continue to monitor regional trends to ensure the continued safety of our patients and health-care workers.”

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Meanwhile at the hospital in Smiths Falls, a similar change has already been made.

As of May 23, the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital also loosened its protective health measures related to masking, meaning face masks for staff, patients and visitors are optional in all public areas such as hallways, offices, meeting rooms, gift shops, and the cafeteria.

Masking will remain in place for all staff-to-patient and visitor-to-patient interactions, in addition to patient registration and waiting room areas. Patients are asked to wear masks “as tolerated” when outside of patient rooms and walking in patient unit hallways and in care areas such as clinics, patient areas, and waiting rooms.

Visitors and support people are no longer required to be vaccinated, either.

“As always, PSFDH will continue to monitor any public health measures, provincial guidelines, department/unit outbreaks and community prevalence regularly should any changes be required or measures reinstated,” the hospital wrote on its website.

Self-screening is still required at both hospitals, and visitors are asked not to attend either facility if experiencing symptoms of illness.

The move to loosen local restrictions comes just weeks after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 over as a global health emergency.

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