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Army goes mobile with COVID testing in Toronto

Army goes mobile with COVID testing in Toronto

Army goes mobile with COVID testing in Toronto

Major Marie Hollett, Director of Religious and Spiritual Care at Toronto Grace Health Centre in The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda Territory, arrives with the new vehicle to be used as the centre’s mobile COVID-19 testing vehicle.

By Darryl Whitecross

The Salvation Army Toronto Grace Health Centre has set up a mobile COVID-19 testing unit to quickly respond to residents and staff of retirement homes, supportive housing and shelters in the Canadian city.

Jake Tran, Toronto Grace President and Chief Executive Officer, said the “mobile pop-up site” was helping take on some of the increased demand and long line-ups outside existing testing and assessment centres.

Toronto Grace, which was an Army maternity hospital from the early 1900s into the 1970s, is not a COVID-19 testing or assessment centre but, with the help of the Ministry of Health, is providing the mobile unit.

Toronto Grace Health Centre mobile COVID-19 testing team members, registered nurses Nigisti Hagos and Marites Ruiz, in their PPE gear ready to take to the streets.

“It is very difficult to ask the population to wait in line for a swab test. As a result, our mobile unit will decrease wait times at assessment centres while we test groups of people in their congregated living centres and or long-term care home,” Jake said.

“We also serve the frail elderly, marginalised population and those with mental health disorders. We send nurses and administrative staff to the site for the tests [and] work directly with Ontario Health-Toronto (Ministry of Health) and Toronto Public Health.”

The 150-bed Toronto Grace Health Centre cares for patients with multifaceted chronic diseases who require complex continuing care, post-acute care rehabilitation, palliative care and integrated transitional services.

Statistics from Worldometer, which is monitoring coronavirus cases across the world, indicate (at time of publication) 158,425 people had tested positive to COVID-19 of which 134,194 have recovered. In Toronto, there have been 17,259 reported cases and 15,202 recoveries.

Jake, who sits on a task force that coordinates testing across Toronto, said there were coordination and logistical challenges in providing the mobile testing across the city, but the Toronto TGHC aims to respond within 2-3 days of getting a call to a specific location with the turnaround time in getting results “quite rapid”.

He said the unit is on standby 24 hours a day to respond to a callout. “For the most part, the greatest challenge is not the actual test, rather the communication of test results to the organisation (where the testing was carried out),” he said. “Furthermore, the need to isolate the clients when they are indeed positive is another logistical challenge as space, such as private rooms, is limited. We have not had issues with testing and our test results are quite rapid, speaking from limited experience.”

Jake said funding for the unit was provided through Ontario’s Ministry of Health.

The mobile testing unit team consists of an infection prevention and control nurse, two or three nurses and is supported by human resources staff, Toronto Public Health and Ontario Health-Toronto officials and a doctor.

The unit carries minimal equipment, preferring to use the infrastructure of the centre where the testing is done.

Lieut-Colonel John Murray, the Toronto Grace’s Board of Trustees Chair and Secretary for Communications in the Army’s Canada and Bermuda territory, described as “swift and nimble” the Army’s response to the pandemic across the territory.

“The Toronto Grace Health Centre team has supported our patients, their families and our government and private sector partners with care, compassion and efficiency,” John said. “The COVID-19 mobile testing unit is another example of responding to crisis and community in a practical and direct way.”


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