COVID-19 Information

Here you will find information about COVID-19 for patients and visitors of the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre.

The Windsor Regional Hospital COVID-19 page contains information about how to protect yourself and your loved ones during this time and hospital policy changes.

 

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) AND CANCER: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

You may be worried about Coronavirus (COVID-19) and have questions about how the pandemic will affect you and your cancer care. Here is what you need to know:

  • Cancer and some cancer treatments may weaken your immune system, which means you may be at a higher risk of getting seriously ill from a COVID-19 infection.
  • You may be tested for COVID-19 during your visit to a hospital or Cancer Centre as a precaution or if you have symptoms.
  • COVID-19 can cause very mild symptoms (such as a cough) to severe pneumonia (lung infection). Severe symptoms can be life-threatening and need to be treated at the hospital.
  • It is important for people with cancer, as well as their family, friends and caregivers, to know how to keep themselves safe during this pandemic.

 

HOW DOES COVID-19 AFFECT MY CANCER JOURNEY?

APPOINTMENT CHANGES

How will my cancer care change during this time?

Your cancer care may change during COVID-19 to allow you to stay home and away from crowded places. In order to keep you and your family safe during this time, your cancer Care Team may make changes to your care plan. They may:
  • Call you to change the date of your next appointment.
  • Change an in-person appointment to be over the telephone or a video conference.
  • Change how often you have your treatment or postpone it until later.
  • Change you to a different treatment (such as a different type of chemotherapy).
  • Change how often you have radiation treatment.
  • Change your scheduled scan or diagnostic test.
  • Adjust your palliative appointments.
Your care team is carefully monitoring all your upcoming appointments and reviewing your care plan to ensure any changes made are safe for you.
  • To protect our patients and keep our workforce as safe as possible, we are only keeping appointments at the Cancer Centre that cannot be safely delayed.
  • You will be contacted by phone to inform you of any changes.
  • If you have questions about the status of your appointment please contact your cancer care team by calling 519-253-5253.

If I am coming into the Cancer Centre for an appointment, can I bring my family member or caregiver?

In alignment with hospital policy to keep all our patients and staff safe, no visitors are allowed into the Cancer Centre at this time.
  • To request an exception due to mobility or cognitive reasons, please call the Cancer Centre prior to your appointment.
  • All requests will be carefully reviewed on a case by case basis and exceptions granted based on need.
  • We are ensuring loved ones can still participate in important conversations with your Care Team through a phone call or FaceTime. Please speak to your Care Team if you need assistance.

If I was scheduled for a diagnostic scan, will my appointment be cancelled?

All appointments for diagnostic tests (CT scan, mammogram, etc.) are being reviewed by your Cancer Doctor and Care Team to determine whether it would be safe to proceed or defer.
  • It is possible your test may be delayed or cancelled.
  • We will make every effort to have your scan done as quickly and safely possible.
  • You will be called and notified of any changes to your diagnostic test appointment.
  • If you have any changes in your symptoms, please call to be re-assessed.

If I was scheduled for a surgery, will my surgery be cancelled?

All upcoming surgeries are being carefully reviewed by your Surgeon and your cancer Care Team to determine whether it would be safe to proceed with or postpone your surgery. It is possible your surgery may be delayed or cancelled.
  • Your surgeon will contact you if your surgery date is impacted.
  • Your surgeon will reschedule when they are able to safely perform the surgery.
  • While your surgery is postponed, we will closely watch your health and any changes to your cancer.

I can't get through on the phone to the Cancer Centre. What do I do?

We are receiving a large number of calls. We understand that long waits on the phone or being unable to get through is frustrating during this uncertain time.

Please continue to bear with us as our staff work to answer all your questions. Thank you for your patience.

  • If you are a patient on active treatment and experiencing a symptom after 4:00 pm and need help with your symptoms right away, please call CAREpath at 1-877-681-3057 to speak to a specialized cancer care nurse.
  • If you have general questions about COVID-19, please visit the WRH website or call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

How is my care impacted if I receive my treatment in Chatham or Sarnia?

As a patient receiving cancer treatment in the Erie St. Clair region at one of our satellite sites (Bluewater Health and Chatham-Kent Health Alliance), the recommendations above apply to your care.

All partner organizations are taking similar precautions as the Cancer Centre on limiting access, restricting the number of visitors at their hospital, and screening at entrance points. However, we strongly encourage you to speak with a member of your care team at your treatment site for specific questions.

I am experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety about COVID-19 and this is affecting my cancer care. What should I do?

It is completely normal to feel nervous or worried during this time particularly if your cancer treatment plan has changed. Knowing this and paying attention to your mental health is important.

If you require support to help you through this difficult time, please call the Cancer Centre at 519-253-5253. We have an expert team of social workers dedicated to helping you during these difficult times.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • worsening of chronic health problems
  • increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

Taking care of yourself, your friends and your family can help you cope with stress.

Things you can do to support yourself:

  • Your cancer Care Team is here for you. If you are very worried about COVID-19, you should ask for help.
  • If you find it upsetting to hear about COVID-19, try limiting your time watching, reading or listening to news stories.
  • Take care of your body. Eat healthily, be active and get plenty of sleep.
  • Make time to relax and do things you enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, cooking, or watching a movie.
  • Stay connected with friends and loved ones through telephone or video chats. Social distancing refers to the physical distance between people. It does not mean social isolation. 
  • Alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs can worsen your health and well-being. Talk to your cancer Care Team if this affects you.

 

WHO SHOULD I SPEAK TO ABOUT MY SYMPTOMS?

What should I do if I am not feeling well?

If you are a cancer patient, call your cancer Care Team first if you have any of the symptoms below:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Hoarse voice
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Evidence of pneumonia
  • Decreased ability to smell or taste

Please also call your cancer Care Team if you have any of the symptoms below and they are new or have become worse.

  • Fatigue and feeling discomfort, ill and uneasy
  • Confusion and reduced awareness of your environment
  • Falls
  • Loss of physical and mental abilities
  • Worsening symptoms of your previous or current illness
  • Digestive symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain)
  • Chills and shivering
  • Headache
  • Croup (respiratory infection showing symptoms of a cough and fever)
  • Unexplained tachycardia (a fast resting heart rate)
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Unexplained hypoxia (low blood oxygen)
  • Lethargy (extreme lack of energy or tiredness, and/or decreased motivation or enthusiasm)

 

Please do not visit a public COVID-19 Assessment Centre without speaking to your care team first.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Organization Phone Number Hours (Monday - Friday) 
Windsor Regional Cancer Centre 519-253-5253  8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Bluewater Health Cancer Clinic 519-464-4400 ext. 5517  8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Chatham-Kent Health Alliance Cancer Clinic  519-352-6401 ext. 6682 8:00 am - 4:00 pm 

If you are concerned about any symptoms that you may be experiencing, you may also visit the Ontario Health Symptom Management Page for a self-assessment.

Please call 911 if you are having severe symptoms such as feeling like you cannot breathe. 

Could I speak to someone after hours?

After Hours Contact:
  • If you are a patient on active treatment, have symptoms after 4:00 pm, and need help right away, please call CAREpath at 1-877-681-3057 to speak to a specialized cancer care nurse.
  • If you are not currently receiving treatment, or if you are unable to speak with your cancer care team, call your Primary Care Provider (Family Doctor or Nurse Practitioner) or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.
Please call 911 if you are having severe symptoms such as feeling like you cannot breathe.

 

WHEN ARRIVING AT THE CANCER CENTRE

 

VISITOR POLICY

As a patient on cancer treatment, am I allowed to bring a family member or friend with me?

To ensure your safety and that of other patients and staff, we have the following restrictions in place:
  • One visitor is allowed for in-person physician appointments. The visitor must successfully pass screening, practice physical distancing from other patients, and wear PPE as required by hospital policy in order to enter.
  • One visitor is allowed to accompany a patient for their FIRST systemic treatment appointment, CT SIM appointment, and/or radiation treatment appointment. The visitor must successfully pass screening in order to enter, practice physical distancing from other patients, and wear PPE as required by hospital policy. No visitors will be allowed for subsequent treatments. 
  • No visitors or loved ones are allowed for lab visits. Please make arrangements to be dropped off and picked up for these visits instead.
  • If your loved one needs the support of translation services, tell his or her Care Team.
  • If you or your loved one require help getting around the Cancer Centre, a staff member will help you or your loved one get from one area to the next.
  • If you would like to request an exception due to mobility or cognitive reasons, please call the Cancer Centre at 519-253-5253 prior to your appointment. All requests will be carefully reviewed on a case by case basis and exceptions will be granted based on need.
Ask your cancer Care Team if it is okay to phone or video calls your family members, friends or caregivers during your visit or stay. This is a great way to include them in your visit and have an extra person to listen to the discussion. You can use the GuestWRH WiFi network for free.

 

ENTERING

Where do I enter the hospital for my cancer care?

The main Cancer Centre entrance, off Alsace road, is open only to cancer patients and Cancer Centre staff.

Please arrive at the Cancer Centre entrance if you are coming for:

  • Your treatment appointments
  • An appointment with your Cancer Doctor
  • A diagnostic test related to your cancer care
  • A lab test related to your cancer care

What are you doing to protect us from possible infection when we come for a visit?

  • We are taking caution by limiting the number of people on-site and restricting access to the Cancer Centre.
  • We are working closely with our Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) team to ensure the best practices are maintained to protect our patients, visitors and staff. This includes cleaning surfaces using rules recommended by IPAC, limiting visitors, active screening in place at all entrances and using proper personal protective equipment (like masks and gowns) when needed.

 

SCREENING

As a patient on cancer treatment, what should I know before I arrive at the Cancer Centre for an appointment?

  • Know that before entering the building all employees and professional staff are screened for any potential symptoms or exposure to COVID-19.
  • You will be also be screened at the entrance of the Cancer Centre.
  • Screening might include answering some questions about how you are feeling.
  • If you indicate you experiencing any of the listed symptoms, you will be assessed further before your appointment.
Physical distancing:
  • You will notice that all waiting areas in the Cancer Centre have been re-arranged to allow for physical distancing.
  • Please practice physical distancing by staying 2 metres (6 feet) away from others.
  • Do not touch common surfaces (such as door handles and elevator buttons) with your bare hands.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser often and especially if you have touched anything in the hospital.

 

MASKS AND EYE PROTECTION

Do I need to wear a mask while at the Cancer Centre?

  • You are required to wear a mask at the Cancer Centre. 
  • You will be given a surgical-grade mask before each visit when you screen.
  • You will also be asked to wear a face shield, goggles, or other forms of eye protection when physical distancing is not possible (such as during a physical exam or during a procedure). 

 

COVID-19 TESTING

As a cancer patient, will I be tested for COVID-19?

Cancer patients coming into the Cancer Centre for appointments will be tested in accordance with provincial and hospital policies. If the test is appropriate for you, you will be provided with the required information.
  • The test involves the insertion of a cotton-tipped swab into your nostril to collect a sample from the back of the nose and throat.
  • The test is a little uncomfortable and only takes a few seconds.
  • You will receive a call from Public Health with your results (whether they are negative or positive).
  • This testing of all patients will help us slow the spread of this virus and keep you and our community safe.

Can I still have my cancer treatment if I screen positive for COVID-19?

  • All decisions about your cancer treatment will be made on a case-by-case basis by your Cancer Doctor and care team.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 and require treatment, all necessary precautions will be taken, as per our policies, to ensure your treatment is delivered in a safe manner to protect you and our staff.

 

LAB

As an active Cancer Centre patient, where can I complete my lab work?

A satellite lab has been opened within the Cancer Centre to provide safer access for patients.
  • Location: Cancer Centre, Stretcher Bay Area, Ground Floor
  • Hours: 7:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday - Friday, excluding holidays

Check-In:

  • 7:00 am - 3:00 pm: at the Stretcher Bay Area
  • 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm: at Radiation Reception
If you have any questions, please call the Cancer Centre at 519-253-5253.

 

PHARMACY

Is the Cancer Centre pharmacy open?

Walk-in access to the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre Pharmacy is restricted to patients with a scheduled appointment.
  • All prescriptions for oral anti-cancer medications and maintenance medications will be delivered to patient homes. A member of the pharmacy team will call you to arrange delivery.
  • All prescriptions for supportive care medications for patients being actively treated in the Systemic (Chemotherapy) Suite will be delivered to the suite for the patient. We encourage patients to continue calling in their refills and let the pharmacy know their treatment date.

If you have any questions, please call your Cancer Centre pharmacy:

  • Windsor Regional Cancer Centre: 519-254-5577 ext. 58529
  • Bluewater Health Pharmacy: 519-464-4400 ext. 5535
  • Chatham-Kent Health Alliance: 519-352-6401 ext. 6682

Can I still access my local or community pharmacy outside of the Cancer Centre?

Yes, community pharmacies are still open.

When should I call if I need a refill on a prescription?

  • Call your pharmacy a week before your current supply runs out.
  • You do not need to call your Cancer Doctor to order a refill.
  • Your Pharmacist will be in touch with your Cancer Doctor at the Cancer Centre to refill your prescription.
  • Your pharmacy can deliver the medication when it is ready for you.

How much medicine should I keep on hand?

  • At this time, you do not need to ask for extra refills or early refills.
  • You will be dispensed a 30-day supply at a time to ensure that there are no medication shortages because of the stockpiling of medicines.
  • If you need your prescription delivered, please contact your dispensing pharmacy to ask about delivery options.
  • The Cancer Centre pharmacy is also currently delivering medication.

 

RECEIVING TREATMENT OR CARE AT HOME

Should I continue to receive care in my home from my home or community nurse?

  • If you have arrangements to see a home or community nurse at your home, please keep these arrangements. This is a safer way to ensure your continued care. Please do not cancel any of your home care appointments until you speak to a member of your care team at the Cancer Centre.
  • Like all healthcare organizations, the LHIN Homecare Service (formerly CCAC) is taking precautions to ensure their nurses and patients remain safe during this time.
  • If you have any issues, questions or concerns about your home care, please contact LHIN Homecare Services at 519-258-8211 and ask to speak to your Care Coordinator who will be able to respond appropriately.
  • If you have any trouble getting through, please call the Cancer Centre at 519-253-5253 and we will help as best we can.

Is it safe to delay a port flush during this time?

  • Your cancer care team will let you know if you can delay flushing your port.
  • If you can delay flushing your port, your appointment at the Cancer Centre or with your home nurse to flush your port will be adjusted as needed.

What should I do with my disconnected pump?

  • Store the disconnected pump in the biohazardous bag you were provided.
  • Keep it in a safe place until your next appointment at the Cancer Centre.
  • Bring the biohazardous bag with the pump inside to your next appointment at the Cancer Centre.

 

COVID-19 VACCINE AND CANCER PATIENTS

Read this information to learn about:

  • Why people with cancer should get vaccinated
  • How the vaccines work and how they are given
  • Possible side effects from the vaccine
  • Why is it important to follow public health rules after getting the vaccine

This information is meant to give you, your family and caregivers general information about the COVID-19 vaccines and what is known now.

Erie St. Clair Vaccine Booking Handout

Why should people with cancer get vaccinated?

People with cancer may have a higher risk of:
  • Getting COVID-19
  • Getting very sick from COVID-19
  • Dying from COVID-19

The government is rolling out a 3-phase plan to vaccinate people in Ontario. People with cancer can get the vaccine in Phase 2 of the plan. People with cancer should get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are able.

The sooner that most people in Ontario get vaccinated, the sooner life can go back to normal. 

Check the websites of Ontario's Ministry of Health and your local public health agency to find out more details. Call the Ontario Vaccine Information Line (1-888-9999-6488) if you prefer to use the phone. 

What groups of people with cancer are most at risk?

The following groups of people with cancer have an even higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Those who:
  • Are 65 years or older
  • Have had a stem cell transplant in the last 6 months
  • Are getting or have recently stopped having cancer treatments
  • Have been diagnosed with cancer in the last year
  • Have cancers of the blood like leukaemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma
  • Have lung cancer 
  • Have cancer that has spread to another area of the body (metastatic cancer)
  • Have had cancer surgery within the last 2 months

If you are in one of the above groups, you must be extra careful to protect yourself from getting COVID-19. Stay home as much as possible, stay apart from people you do not live with, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.

How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

There are 4 approved COVID-19 vaccines for use in Canada.
  • The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. mRNA is a type of molecule (a small part of a cell) that our bodies are always making. mRNA vaccines teach our bodies to make proteins that tell our immune systems to fight the COVID-19 virus.
  • The COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca (may also be called Covishield) and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) are viral vector-based vaccines. This type of vaccine uses another harmless virus (not COVID-19) to teach your body to build up immunity to COVID-19 without making you sick. The flu shot is also a viral vector-based vaccine.

You cannot get COVID-19 from either type of vaccine.

When is the best time to get your vaccine?

You should get a vaccine as soon as you are able.

If you are getting any of the treatments below, speak to your cancer Care Team about when it is best to get the vaccine during your treatment:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Adoptive cell therapy
  • Immunosuppressive therapy (treatments that weaken your immune system)

Which vaccine will I get?

The vaccine you get will depend on which vaccine is available in your area at the time of your appointment, your age, and other factors. Check with your local public health unit and the Ontario Ministry of Health's website to learn about which vaccine you will get.

The best vaccine for you is the first one you are offered.

How do I know that vaccines are safe?

Health Canada has one of the most careful review processes in the world. They make sure that all vaccines meet very strict safety and efficacy (how well something works) standards before they are approved for use.

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people with cancer. It is important that people with cancer get vaccinated because they may be at higher risk for more severe outcomes of COVID-19.

The vaccines:

  • Were tested on thousands of people
  • Have met all the requirements for approval, including safety
  • Will be observed for any issues as they are used across the world 

How are the vaccines given?

The COVID-19 vaccines are given as shots (needles) into the upper arm, like a flu shot.

The Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Covishield vaccines are 2 shots. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is 1 shot.

For 2-shot vaccines, the second shot will be given weeks or months after the first shot. When booking your vaccine appointment, ask about the timing of your second shot to make sure it follows the advice of your cancer Care Team. 

How well do the vaccines work?

All the vaccines have been shown to work well in large clinical trials (a research study that involves humans). The vaccines have shown that they protect people from getting very sick, needing to be hospitalized and dying from COVID-19.

People with weakened immune systems, including some people with cancer, may not get as much protection from the vaccines as others. The vaccines are still being studied for how well they work on the virus variants. 

How soon does the vaccine start to work and how long does it last?

For the 2-shot vaccines, you will begin to get some protection about 2 weeks after the first shot. For the 2-shot vaccines, you need the second dose to get the most protection. If you skip the second dose, the vaccine will not work as well to protect you.

For the single-shot vaccine, you will begin to get some protection 2 weeks after the single shot. 

At this time, we do not know how long protection from the vaccine will last. Since the vaccines are new, they will need to be studied over time to see how long they will work. 

What are the possible side effects of the vaccines?

Some people may have mild side effects in the days after their shot. Most side effects will go away on their own. For 2-shot vaccines, side effects may be worse after the second shot.

The most common side effects from the vaccines are: 

  • Pain, redness or swelling in your arm where the needle was given
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Headache
  • Body chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Mild fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen glands can happen for a few days after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your cancer Care Team if this lasts for more than a few days.

If side effects last for more than 2-3 days, make sure you speak to your health Care Team.

After you get the COVID-19 vaccine, wait for at least 15 minutes before going home. This wait is to check for side effects or an allergic reaction. 

Rare but serious side effects:

A rare but serious form of blood clots has been linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. These are different type of clots than those that can be caused by cancer and cancer treatments. The blood clots have mostly happened in women under the age of 55. The blood clots have happened 4 to 20 days after the vaccine is given. 

Can the vaccine cause allergic reactions?

It is possible to be allergic to ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines. If you have serious allergies or have had a serious allergic reaction to other vaccines, drugs, or food, talk to your cancer care team or your family health team before you get the COVID-19 vaccine.

You may need to speak to an allergy doctor to see if it is safe for you to get the vaccine. You may also need to get your vaccine in a hospital instead of at a clinic or pharmacy. For more information about ingredients in the vaccines search the vaccine names on the Health Canada website or ask your health care team. 

Do I need to keep following public health rules after getting the vaccine?

Yes. After getting the vaccine, it is important to keep following public health rules including:
  • Keeping wearing a mask
  • Wash your hands often
  • Stay apart from people you do not live with

You must keep following public health measures because:

  • It takes time for your body to build up protection after getting the vaccine
  • It is possible for COVID-19 to spread even between people who have already gotten the vaccine
  • We need to control the spread of COVID-19 in our communities until everyone has had a vaccine 

Are there times when I should wait to get the vaccine?

There are times when some people should wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you have COVID-19 you should wait to get the vaccine until after you recover from the virus. You need to get the vaccine even if you have already had COVID-19 because it is possible to get the virus again. Talk to your health care team about when you should get the vaccine after you recover.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are currently self-isolating you should wait to get the vaccine. Talk to your health care team about your symptoms and getting a COVID-19 test. Your health care team will tell you when to get the vaccine.
  • If you need to get another type of vaccine (such as the flu shot) wait for at least 28 days after getting your COVID-19 vaccine (single dose or 2nd dose of a 2-shot vaccine) before getting any other vaccines.
  • If you have already gotten another type of vaccine, wait 14 days before you get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Schedule your vaccine at least one week before or one week after getting surgery. This is so that any vaccine side effects are not mistaken for problems after surgery.

How did research teams develop the vaccines so quickly?

Some reasons research teams were able to develop the COVID-19 vaccines so quickly are:
  • The COVID-19 virus is similar to other viruses. Researchers already knew a lot about these types of viruses.
  • Research teams around the world started to work on the vaccine right away when the COVID-19 virus was found.
  • Research teams all over the world shared information with each other.
  • Many people quickly signed up for clinical trials (a research study that involves humans) to test the vaccines. For example, over 200,000 people in Britain took part in clinical trials.

For more information: 

Talk to your health Care Team for more information about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Provincial Vaccine Information Line

Call if you have questions about Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination program or booking your vaccination appointment. Information is available in multiple languages.

  • Telephone: 1-888-999-6488 
  • TTY: 1-866-797-0007

Local Public Health Units