Two weeks after students started returning to Kingston, Queen’s has opened its COVID-19 testing centre on campus.
During a media tour of the facility on Tuesday morning, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green and Dr. David Pichora, KHSC president and CEO, were available to answer questions.
Located on the main level of Mitchell Hall adjacent to Student Wellness Services (SWS), the satellite assessment centre will be open on weekdays from 5-8 p.m. by appointment only. Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) is operating the facility.
The centre operates at the side of Mitchell Hall, with its own contained area, to limit the potential risk to others who are visiting Mitchel Hall.@queensjournal
According to the University, between 50-60 appointment slots will be available within the three-hour window. Appointments are available to students presenting symptoms of COVID-19, students who require testing for contract tracing purposes, and for students who have travelled outside of Canada within the past 14 days.
“From our perspective in the University, it’s what we can do to contribute to part of the community and take some of the load where it’s specifically for our students,” Green said.
Pichora added he’s “optimistic” the satellite centre will help in quickly identifying students who test positive for COVID-19.
Queen’s isn’t the first Ontario university to open a COVID-19 testing facility. The University of Ottawa opened a campus assessment centre last week, which is open during weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Following a campus outbreak, Western University is doubling its mobile testing centre to make room for 500 appointments a day.
Pichora chalked the limited hours at the Queen’s facility up to low staffing.
“Finding the people who have the skills to do this kind of stuff and getting them trained up is not an overnight event,” he said.
The Journal inquired whether there are any plans to increase staffing levels in the assessment centre or whether hours will be expanded in the event of an outbreak.
“We’ll have to be responsive to what’s happening in the community with [COVID-19] activity,” Pichora said. “There’s no playbook for this. We’ll hope to keep the outbreaks under control so they don’t happen, but if it did, then we will adjust to [the circumstances] the best we can.”
Queen’s first announced it would open a campus testing facility in May, but the facility’s opening comes two weeks after students began moving to Kingston.
“Part of it’s logistics, it’s a lot of work to set this up, and so we’re here today. It’s been a very busy summer,” Pichora said.
“There haven’t been any cases in the community lately for several months now,” he added. “The activity’s been extremely low, we want to keep it that way. This will be a timely addition to our resources for doing that.”
Green called the timing “appropriate.”
“We certainly identified that we wanted to be open as early as possible in September,” he said.
In a follow-up email to The Journal, the University added the 5-8 p.m. timeframe doesn’t interfere with the online course schedule for most students.
“Operating during the evenings during weekdays supports KHSC’s efforts to ensure staff are available for the centre. These hours allow health care workers who normally work other jobs in the health care sector to help provide care for Queen’s students,” the University wrote.
Students can book a COVID-19 test by calling SWS at 613-533-2506.
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