Non-urgent and elective services cancelled, restrictions placed on bars and restaurants

ANTIGONISH: The Government of Nova Scotia, along with the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and the IWK Health Centre, have increased their measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Effective immediately, the NSHA and IWK are suspending all non-urgent and elective services; restaurants will only be able to provide take-out and drive-thru services; and all bars have been ordered to close.

“We don’t want to approach this situation with fear, we need to approach this situation from a sense of caring for one another and a sense of community,” Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer told the debriefing on March 17. “I can’t stress this enough, it’s our job together to preserve our healthcare system.”

As part of their planned pandemic response the NSHA and IWK introduced sweeping directives to conserve and redeploy resources in anticipation of increasing demand related to the pandemic.

The changes include limiting surgical procedures to urgent and emergent cases only; emergency departments will remain open, as will the IWK’s emergency mental health and addiction serves.

“The health and safety of our patients, families and clinical teams is of the utmost importance as we work to respond to increased demands on our services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Krista Jangaard, CEO of IWK Health Centre. “Decisions to alter non-urgent services are very difficult to make, however at this time; it is the right thing to do.”

The health authority announced their services are being reduced or suspended until further notice – dialysis, chemotherapy and radiation treatments will continue; as will mental health and addiction appointments.

Dr. Brendan Carr, CEO of the NSHA suggested plans are in place for all regions to establish secondary assessment sites.

“While a reduction of services is a difficult decision and will unfortunately mean a delay of care to some Nova Scotians who need it, we have reached the phase of our planned pandemic response where this is necessary,” Carr said. “These changes allow our system to be ready to care for others who experience the most serious effects of COVID-19, and to protect our staff and patients from exposure as much as possible.”

Carr said healthcare officials are prepared and are ready for whatever they may face, as they’ve been busy since January preparing and implementing their pandemic plan.

“During that period of time we’ve essentially discontinued any kind of meetings and other work that was not singularly focused on getting our organization ready to deal with what we knew was going to be a challenging time ahead,” he said. “We know that it’s imminent we’re going to have patients that are going to need to be in the hospital and I think we’re ready to bring those patients into the hospital and provide them with care.”

These measures come after when Carr directed healthcare teams to rapidly, but safely wind down critical activity.

Premier Stephen McNeil reiterated again the requirement for anyone who has been outside the country to self-isolate for 14 days when they get home, even if they’re symptom free, and for everyone to continue to wash their hands regularly.

“These are simple asks, when you think about what’s happening around the world,” he said. “That’s not too much to ask, when it talks about life and death.”

“My message to Nova Scotians is to be home with your loved ones,” he said. “Try to be out of the public as much as you can be.”

In taking all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all Access Nova Scotia and Motor Vehicle Offices will be temporarily closing and are scheduled to reopen on March 25, in order to establish new ways of offering services while minimizing contact between people.

Additionally, the government is also extending expiration dates of driver’s licenses and license plates expiring in March, April and May to August 31 – all law enforcement agencies have been notified of the extension.

“We together can ensure our province manages this virus and ensures those that have come in contact with it now come back to good health.”

For a list of COVID affected areas, go to: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals/covid-19-affected-areas-list.html.