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April 16, 2003

Debbie Neufert
Media Relations, LHSC
519-685-8500, ext. 74772

SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)
April 16, 2003 – 5:30 p.m


(LONDON, Ontario) - London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) will not be easing visitor restrictions. LHSC’s number one priority is to return to full patient volumes. The hospital needs to continue to be vigilant in protecting its patients, healthcare workers and the public against SARS because it is the major regional referral and trauma centre for Southwestern Ontario.

Currently, LHSC’s outpatient activity is only between 50 and 75 per cent of normal patient volumes. As we continue to work to reinstate all patient care services, we must also maintain compliance with the provincial directives, which includes staffing front entrances and other areas for SARS screening purposes. Since April 1, LHSC has needed staff to manage 10 hospital entrances across three sites, 24 hours a day, seven days a week requiring approximately 625 staff members.

“We have to make a choice between caring for as many patients as possible or allowing more visitors into the hospital, and patient care will always be our priority,” says Tony Dagnone, LHSC President and CEO. Dagnone adds, “We will not review our visitor restrictions until we return to 100 per cent of our normal patient volumes.”

LHSC’s current visitor policy is in step with other major academic regional referral centres in Ontario, such as Hamilton Health Sciences and The Ottawa Hospital.

“While we recognize that the visitor restrictions have caused hardship for our patients and their families, we know they are in place for all the right reasons,” says Dagnone. He adds, “Our only defense against SARS is to limit the number of people entering the hospital, and the SARS screening test at the entrances. LHSC needs to be extraordinarily cautious and cannot risk getting a SARS case because that would tie our hands in providing specialized patient care for this region.”

LHSC already has to manage a large volume of people coming through the doors because, in addition to the more than 7,500 employees and physicians, it is the referral centre for 35 hospitals in the province. LHSC has more than 750 beds providing care for approximately 65,000 patients each month, which translates into approximately three-quarters-of-a-million patients annually.