Medical staff don their full personal protection equipment (PPE) before beginning another day of assessing, testing and educating people about COVID-19. The centre is a joint effort between Mission Division of Family Practice, Fraser Health and the District of Mission. To learn more, visit MissionCovidResponse.com. / Kevin Mills Photos

Inside Mission’s COVID-19 Assessment Centre

Dedicated medical team triage, test and educate the public about the virus

The Mission COVID-19 Assessment Location triages, tests and educates the public about COVID-19.

A joint venture of the Mission Division of Family Practice, Fraser Health and the District of Mission, the assessment centre is a vital tool in the fight to help the public and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Last week, Dr. Lawrence Welsh, the medical lead at the assessment centre, and registered nurse Cynthia Thurston, the site operations lead and the trauma coordinator at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, allowed The Mission Record to tour the facility.

Patients are seen by appointment only and should first consult with their family physician or visit the centre’s website at MissionCovidResponse.com.

READ: Doctor says Mission got it right

Once a patient has an appointment, they can come to the assessment centre (located in the Mission Seniors Activity Centre) by driving into the Mission Leisure Centre (7650 Grand St.) parking lot. That is the only access to the centre as all other entrances are blocked off.

“The flow is one way. So the entrance is down through the leisure centre, which is where they are met,” explained Thurston.

Two members of Mission Fire Rescue Service block the bottom entrance and manage the traffic to ensure only those with appointments enter the greeting area.

There is a series of three outside tents that patients go through.

“The first tent is where intake happens. They are met by a nurse practitioner and triaged,” Welsh said.

MORE: Mission inmates hospitalized with COVID-19

It can be an intimidating experience as all of the staff dealing with the public are dressed in full personal protection equipment (PPE). Gloves, masks, gowns, foot coverings and more: nothing is left to chance when it comes to safety – for the patient and the staff.

If they are symptomatic, but otherwise well and just need to be swabbed, they go to the next tent.

“The second tent is the swabbing team. People get swabbed in their vehicle,” Thurston said.

“Swabbing is deliberately done outside because it can generate aerosols and the outside kind of takes it away,” added Welsh.

The third tent, which Welsh said is the most important one, is for education.

“People leaving here, they are scared and they feel vulnerable and they don’t understand, and because of the continuous change in messaging, they just don’t know,” he said, adding that part of the job is to ease people’s fears.

“We assume that they are scared.”

Those who were tested will be informed, by phone, of their results.

While the entire experience takes place outside, some patients – at the first tent – are deemed to need to see a doctor immediately.

“Anyone who needs to be seen by primary care, we ensure that will happen.”

Those patients are seen, one at a time, in the primary care room. It’s a large spacious room and the sickest people are seen there.

They enter the building at one specific entrance to ensure proper social distancing. The room’s walls are wrapped in plastic and a single chair sits in the centre.

On the ground is a red X. The patient sits in the chair and the physician stands on the X.

“When they come in, we ask them to leave everything in the car. There’s no one coming in with them. If they have lots of layers, they take them off in the car in their space; they aren’t bringing it in here,” Welsh said.

After the examination is complete, more safety procedures take place.

The chair in the room always faces the same direction for the patient. If it’s facing the opposite direction, then it hasn’t been cleaned yet and no one can sit in it until it has.

Sometimes the patient needs more help than the assessment centre can provide.

“If there is a patient that is unwell, that needs to be transferred to the emergency department, Dr. Welsh is the medical lead and he’ll call out,” explained Thurston.

The emergency department will then be prepared to take any precautions needed before the patient arrives.

There are times when symptomatic patients aren’t suffering from COVID-19, but other medical issues.

Two people were sent to emergency last Friday, including one who was having severe shortness of breath because of a heart attack.

READ: Mobile Medical Unit created

The precautions used when dealing with patients are also followed when dealing with other staff members.

Inside the main building there are red lines and caution tape signifying where staff can and cannot go, depending on the situation.

Those in protective gear and dealing with patients do not mingle with those who have not.

“We have an area available, when staff are in full protective gear, to come in if they need to access any of their equipment so they don’t cross over the red line. We have the caution tape to create a no-go zone. That essentially creates social distancing. If we need to pass any equipment, we have a bin that can be passed back and forth,” Thurston said.

Known as red and green zones, those working at the centre are all careful not to cross over.

“If anyone sees anything that may be considered unsafe, they can say stop,” Welsh said.

Inside the building there is also a green and a red washroom for staff to prepare for the day.

Green is where they change into their new protective gear, while the red washroom is where they take off the protective gear at the end of the shift.

“They prepare two at a time. There is a check list they have to follow. They are spotting each other to make sure no breaches are occurring and that everything is being put on properly,” Thurston said

Staff do not deviate from this procedure.

“The most important thing is you don’t put on PPE, and essentially you don’t take it off, ever, without someone spotting you. Someone needs to make sure you put it on correctly and, if you have contamination, then how you take it off is crucial,” Welsh said. “It’s where most health-care professionals pick it up – by either not having it on in the first place or by taking it off incorrectly.”

Once the team is donned, they cross over the red line and remain in the clinical area and the site goes live. If they need to come in for any reason, they go in through one specific entrance so that there is no contamination.

While the staff all know the procedures, they all meet each morning for a briefing to go over those procedures and to discuss any changes or updates issued by the provincial or federal governments.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should talk to their family physician or visit the local website at MissionCovidResponse.com.

Remember:

  • You must have an appointment to be assessed at the Mission COVID-19 assessment location
  • Testing will not change the course or treatment of the illness of COVID-19
  • Anyone with respiratory symptoms must self-isolate for 10 days regardless of testing
  • Anyone arriving in Canada must self-isolate for 14 days
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