submitted by Jenny Read
After two and a half years, 33,000 COVID tests and 44,000 COVID vaccinations, the North Grenville COVID-19 Assessment Centre (NGCAC) in Kemptville is closing on March 31, 2023.
“I’m so grateful to our staff, physicians and partners for their commitment to providing COVID testing and assessment in this area as long as it was needed,” said Dr. Suzanne Rutherford, the NGCAC’s Clinical Lead since its inception.
Thanks to the collaboration of a number of community partners, the NGCAC opened its doors for COVID testing on September 24, 2020 on the Kemptville Campus. Several months later, the community partners set up a Vaccination Site, which operated at the North Grenville Municipal Centre from February 2021 to March 2022.
“I am very proud of our community that came together to establish the North Grenville COVID-19 Assessment Centre and Vaccination Site,” said Frank J. Vassallo, CEO of Kemptville District Hospital and NGCAC Co-Lead. “Specifically, our great Primary Care Physicians, the Municipality of North Grenville, Kemptville Campus, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, numerous allied health professionals, and KDH. I’d like to thank Dr. Suzanne Rutherford for her excellent leadership in developing and operating, with her team, the Assessment Centre and Vaccination Site. I’d also like to recognize our MPP Steve Clark and Mayor Nancy Peckford, whose excellent advocacy in the early days of our efforts to establish a local assessment centre were vital to our cause. We are stronger together!”
Following its opening, the NGCAC quickly garnered media attention for its ticketing process, which was inspired by Disney’s FastPass virtual queue system. Patients received time-stamped tickets on arrival and then left the Centre, returning during their assigned time window. This creative model, devised by Dr. Rutherford, enabled the NGCAC to operate very efficiently, testing a large volume of patients.
One month after opening, the NGCAC transitioned to a full assessment and treatment centre, offering physician assessment, COVID testing, and treatment for respiratory illness. “We are proud we were able to help preserve hospital ER capacity for other emergencies during this critical time,” said Dr. Rutherford.
The NGCAC also set up and operated the Southwest Ottawa Test Centre in Richmond, Ontario in April and May of 2021, and a pop-up testing centre in Stittsville, Ontario in December 2021. That same month, the NGCAC transitioned from a testing centre to a ‘do it yourself’ collection centre to limit exposure risk for its staff as cases were rising dramatically.
The NGCAC pivoted again in November 2022, increasing its hours to help manage the challenging viral season resulting from the early annual arrival of influenza combined with a resurgence of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) as well as the continued spread of COVID-19. 30 appointments per day were available for patients presenting with Febrile Respiratory Illness (FRI) symptoms seeking physician assessment.
“Our doctors, nurses and other staff will never forget the support of the North Grenville community,” said Sara Paquin, the NGCAC’s Administration Lead. “When we were screening patients outdoors during the fall and winter of 2020, Kemptville Building Centre BMR built us a large heated shed to protect us from the elements.”
“Then there were all the businesses that supported us with nourishment,” Sara continued. “Brewed Awakenings brought us coffee and treats every week for the entire two and a half years of our operations!” She also noted that Shoeless Joe’s sent over lunch once a week during the busiest periods, and The Crusty Baker provided coffee and treats for more than a year. “Other businesses that lifted our spirits and warmed our bellies were Mr. Mozzarella, The Brigadoon, Fat Les’s, The Station, and Brinston General Store,” Sara added.