NORTH BAY -- If you are sick and need help, hospital officials want people to know staff and doctors are there for them despite the pandemic.

Hospitals say care is still available for patients with urgent health care needs and emergencies that are unrelated to COVID-19.

North Bay Regional Health Centre Emergency Department Manager Joan Brazeau says that while communities are doing their part to support the health system as it prepares to respond to COVID-19, patients shouldn’t hesitate to get treatment at the hospital.

"Medical emergencies like heart attacks, strokes, and broken limbs still happen during a pandemic,” said Brazeau. "Please don’t delay receiving care because you are worried about COVID-19."

That’s also the message from the Nipissing Paramedic Services. Manager Stephen Merkley says if you have an emergency and need help, don’t hesitate to call 911.

"To make sure we can safely provide care, we ask that you let us know if the person needing help has a fever, new onset of cough, or difficulty breathing," said Merkley."We also need to know if the person has been a close contact to anyone with an acute respiratory illness or a COVID-19 suspected or probable case in the last 14 days."

Health officials say they are asking the community to be open and honest about their symptoms when calling 911 for the safety and protection of paramedics and other first responders.

North Bay hospital continues to screen all patients and visitors, only allowing visitors in exceptional circumstances. This includes the emergency department –where there are no visitors allowed unless under exceptional circumstances (pediatric, vital signs absent, trauma).

Some of the measures in place to protect our patients and staff include:

Emergency Department: divided into a respiratory and non-respiratory section—patients will now see the waiting area with a new glass wall that creates clear separation between areas. There is also a specific unit for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients that includes three negative pressure rooms, one that remains vacant and dedicated to high risk procedures, and can increase to 13 negative pressure rooms and a plan to increase number of beds if needed.

Critical Care Unit: divided into COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 areas with a specialized team to do all airway procedures on COVID-19 positive patients.

Operating Room: one dedicated operating room specifically for the treatment of COVID-19 patients: all safety protocols in place to safely operate and recover patients