London Hospitals Update Masking Guidelines Ahead of Fall Respiratory Season

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In a move reflecting the regional healthcare trend, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and St. Joseph’s Health Care London (St. Joseph’s) have announced changes to their masking guidelines. These adjustments aim to address health and safety concerns pertinent to the impending fall respiratory season. The revised mask mandate comes into effect on Wednesday, October 4th, not only within LHSC and St. Joseph’s hospitals but also in the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, particularly in areas dedicated to patient care.

Dr. Kevin Chan, chief medical officer at LHSC, defines this season as the opportune moment for a brand new strategy. He shared, “With the advent of the fall respiratory season, it’s time to reinforce our protective measures. Changes to our masking guidelines harmonize with protocols recommended by Public Health Ontario, outlining a way to safeguard our staff, physicians, volunteers, patients, and visitors as respiratory viruses circulate this fall and winter.”

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Dr. Michael Silverman, head of infectious diseases in London and medical director of infection prevention, control, and the Infectious Diseases Care Program at St. Joseph’s, emphasised the importance of masking guidelines along with regular vaccination in combating this year’s respiratory season. He stated, “Our prime objective is to protect our patients, residents, staff, and the community.”

As per the revised guidelines, patients and visitors at LHSC are urged to mask up in all clinical areas and care settings, particularly in the Emergency Departments, London Regional Cancer Program, clinical waiting rooms, and Ambulatory Clinics. Likewise, at St. Joseph’s, all patients and visitors are recommended to wear masks in waiting rooms, the Urgent Care unit, inpatient and outpatient settings, and during direct interaction with health care workers. Patients exhibiting fever or respiratory symptoms must compulsorily wear masks in all settings, barring personal rooms or bed spaces where they are not receiving direct care.

Significantly, these new guidelines highlight the obligation of staff and physicians to wear masks during all direct patient contact across inpatient and outpatient clinical settings, including LHSC’s Emergency Department and St. Joseph’s Urgent Care Centre. While their use in common spaces such as hallways, team stations, cafeterias, office spaces, and laboratories is encouraged, it is not mandatory. Masks will remain accessible at all hospital entrances and care settings, serving as a crucial line of defence in this vulnerability season.