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Research / COVID-19

 

 

 

COVID-19 Research Updates

This page will provide updates pertinent to Research at St. Joe's.

For COVID-19 updates related to the Hospital and clinical care, please click here.

Click here to access McMaster University's Research FAQs related to equipment, lab shutdowns, and other resources.

July 20: Returning to Research at St. Joe's

July 20, 2020

UPDATE: Stages 3 and 4 - Return to Research at Research St. Joseph’s Hamilton (RSJH)

We continue to navigate a return to research activity on St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton (SJHH) sites amid the COVID-19 constraints. The following has been coordinated with, and approved by, the SJHH senior leadership. We are grateful for their continued support of research activities at St. Joe’s. At this time, we can provide you with the following updates. The Stage 3 updates will take effect on July 22, 2020.

Overview
SJHH has taken a phased approach to reintroducing clinical services on its campuses. This phased approach aims to gradually increase services offered while maintaining adequate infection control measures in alignment with policies and public health guidelines. As an affected entity on the SJHH footprint, The Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton (RSJH) has been asked to provide input on how to align with the policies and guidelines while re-introducing research activity at our site.

Approach
RSJH is committed to providing patients with the opportunity to participate in research projects while ensuring their safety by minimizing their risk of being on site. RSJH remains in lock-step with SJHH directives on re-implementing services, which are currently in the second stage. RSJH will continue to gradually expand its services based on SJHH directives and will be following the same staged approach, described below: 

Stage 3 – Commencing July 22

  • Research activities will be permitted to resume only in clinical departments that have been authorized by SJHH to provide clinical services
  • Research activities in these clinical departments will only be allowed for research participants who are on site for clinical purposes (i.e. no “research-exclusive” visits)
  • Research activities are not to disrupt or increase burden on the affected clinical department
  • Research personnel may be on site
  • It remains the case that: All work that can be conducted off-site, must continue to be conducted off-site.

 
Stage 4 – Timing to be determined – Updates will be provided when they are available.

  • Full reintroduction of research services will be contingent upon full resumption of clinical services within the department(s) in which the research activity is taking place
  • “Research-exclusive” visits will be permitted to resume
  • It will remain the case that all work that can be conducted off-site, must continue to be conducted off-site.

Implications and Considerations

  • For each stage of expansion of research activity, research personnel, including Principal Investigators, should consult with all impacted clinical departments to ensure that the planned research activities:
    1. will not disrupt clinical operations
    2. will be able to incorporate any physical or procedural changes implemented by the clinical department, and,
    3. will not decrease the levels of PPE supply
  • Research staff will not be permitted on site for any activities outside of meeting with the participants (i.e. no “office time” other than what is required).
  • All work that can be conducted off-site, must continue to be conducted off-site.

 

Research Administration may periodically monitor activity and related offices to ensure compliance with these directives and guidelines, including COVID-19 activity guidelines.

We recognize that all researchers are keen to get back to work and we continue to advocate for as full a return to research as can be safely achieved and maintained. We recognize that research is one of many competing priorities on our sites, and we continue to address the challenges of ensuring a safe and equitable return for all. Please remember that all updates are made available on this webpage as they become available.

Information for Research Participants

Last Updated June 24, 2020

The Research Institute is working with our clinical partners at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton to ensure the safety of our research participants, research staff, and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 24, the Hospital has updated its Visitor Restrictions. Please see below for more information related to research participation.

 

When will clinical research appointments recommence at St. Joe’s?

  • At this time, clinical research appointments remain on hold.
    • Only research activities involving patients who are already in the hospital or are coming into the hospital for a scheduled clinical visit may resume, provided specific criteria are met (see “June 8: Returning to Research” below for details).
  • We are determining the safest way for study teams to recommence clinical research projects and schedule new appointments.
  • Participant safety is a top priority for us. Your study team is carefully considering which visits are needed in-person, and which may be done over the phone or through other means.
  • If your study team schedules a new appointment, please click here for more information about coming to the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you have a research visit scheduled and have a new or worsening cough, fever, sore throat, shortness of breath (worse than normal), or runny nose, please call your study team to see if you should still come to the hospital for your research visit.
  • St. Joe’s has limited entrances to our sites and is conducting COVID-19 screening of all patients, research participants, staff, and physicians. A list of entrances and more information on the screening process is available here
  • We are asking that you do not arrive more than 15 minutes early before your appointment to limit the number of people in the hospital.

 

Is it safe to come to the Hospital?

  • Please know that our hospital is safe to visit and some of the changes you will see are measures to keep our patients and staff. Click here to learn more before coming to your appointment. When clinical research appointments are reintroduced, please remember to:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer, including when you enter and leave a clinical area.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially while in public.
    • Whenever possible, maintain a distance of 2 meters (6 feet) from others.
    • Wear a mask throughout the hospital. You will be provided with a mask at the available entrances.

 

If the situation changes, will I be notified?

  • As the risk level changes, we will gradually begin to reintroduce clinical research appointments.
  • Your study team will contact you to discuss future appointments and your ongoing participation in research.
  • If you have any questions about coming to the Hospital, please contact your study team.

 

Do I have to come for my research visit? What if I don’t want to?

  • Your participation in a research study is always voluntary and you are not required to keep an appointment. However, there may be safety-related concerns with missed study treatments or visits.
  • Speak with your study team if you have any concerns about your appointment, or if you don’t feel comfortable coming to the Hospital.

 

How can I reduce the risk to myself and others from the virus?

  • The Government of Canada requires everyone who has travelled outside of Canada within the past 14 days to self-isolate at home, regardless of symptoms.
  • As of March 25, 14-day self-isolation for returning travelers is mandatory under the Quarantine Act.
  • Visit the Ontario COVID-19 website for more information on how to stop the spread of the virus and minimize your risk.

 

Where can I find the latest information from St. Joe’s?

 

June 11: Returning to Research: Laboratory Research Update

June 11, 2020

Laboratory Research Update

We continue to navigate a return to research activity on SJHH sites amid the COVID-19 constraints. THIS DOCUMENT PERTAINS ONLY TO LABORATORY RESEARCH activity on St. Joe’s sites, and has been coordinated with, and approved by, the SJHH senior leadership. We are grateful for their continued support of research activities at St. Joe’s. At this time, we can provide you with the following updates that will take effect at 12:00 noon on June 12th 2020:

 

All research laboratory activities that can meet the following criteria may now resume:

  1. All work that can be conducted off-site, must continue to be conducted off-site.
  2. A return to research at the present time is only for research that is impossible to perform in a remote manner.
  3. Principal investigators should prioritize access for graduate students and researchers completing their studies.
  4. No person will come to campus to take part in activities that include (but are not limited to) group or individual meetings, literature reviews, paper writing, grant preparations, thesis defenses, comprehensive exams, etc.
  5. While trained undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows will be permitted to work on site, “hands on” or “one-to-one” training of such individuals is not permitted.
  6. Returning to site for all individuals will require that appropriate physical distancing can be maintained at all times.
  7. Physical distancing of 2 metres applies at all times. This applies to maintaining static distance; persons may briefly pass one another at distances closer than 2 metres, or may need to ask another person if they can briefly enter the space they are occupying to access equipment, reagents, etc. Patience and understanding will be required by all to ensure maximal access and maximal safety.

For all research personnel returning to site, please refer to, and ensure you are familiar with, the safety protocols provided by St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton (SJHH) BEFORE coming to site, including:

×          Masks and Personal Protective Equipment

×          Screening at Entrances:  sjhhscreening.com

×          Keeping Each Other Safe (social distancing and hand washing)

All wet lab facilities at SJHH are shared rooms. The PIs for each lab room must connect as a group to enable equitable shared access to the facilities, including scheduling access to rooms and shared equipment, to ensure SJHH social distancing directives are maintained at all times:

  1. Individuals are responsible to ensure all surfaces are sanitized appropriately prior to and after completing work.
  2. Researchers must recognize that some tasks/experiments may be limited or not possible during this time due to the physical distancing requirements. Organize, plan, and collaborate accordingly.
  3. Researchers should plan work with consideration of the possibility of restrictions being increased if required. For example, experiments with a longer timeline may not be suitable to begin at the current time.
  4. For work utilizing the CAF, PIs should connect with the CAF directly on matters of access and availability.
  5. Graduate Student and Research Offices may be accessed for the purpose of storing and accessing personal belongings, and at this time the office spaces will be used for this purpose only. The regular use of offices is restricted to this purpose until further notice.
  6. Supervisors must check in at least daily with personnel entering the labs.
  7. Working alone procedures remain in place.

If your laboratory research work can meet these criteria, you DO NOT need to seek additional or specific approval from the RSJH office of Research Administration or the VP Research, SJHH. 

To those that have already submitted applications to return to research, if your research meets the above criteria, you will not receive a specific approval notice. 

Research Administration will periodically monitor activity in the laboratories and related offices to ensure compliance with these directives and guidelines, including COVID-19 activity guidelines.

We recognize that all researchers are keen to get back to work and we continue to advocate for as full a return to research as can be safely achieved and maintained. We recognize that research is one of many competing priorities on our sites and, we continue to address the challenges of ensuring a safe and equitable return for all. 

Joint Message from RSJH, HHS, and McMaster

March 17, 2020

Dear members of the McMaster research community,

The provincial declaration of emergency and other rapidly developing circumstances in the pandemic are impacting research at McMaster, and I wanted to bring you up to date on what we need to do to meet new social distancing and other measures introduced by government, and to ensure the health and safety of our community both on and off campus.

McMaster’s research is not closing down, but we do need to think about what research needs to continue at this time and how can we make sure our research staff is well-informed and know that their well-being is of the utmost importance.

After consulting with the Associate Deans of Research (ADR) and other university and hospital leaders, the university is issuing the following directives:

No research with subjects that require face-to-face contact, unless these are on-going interventional or clinical studies that impact human health.

  1. No new animal-based research; completion of current, on-going animal studies to continue with some adaptations, in consultation with the Central Animal Facility.
  2. No initiation of new research experiments that require campus access, unless they are associated with emergency COVID-19 funding or involve activities focusing on patient health and safety. Please discuss such plans with your ADR and the VPR before proceeding. Research that can be completed remotely (e.g. online) that is not impacted by social distancing policies may continue. 
  3. Researchers and groups must develop plans to close down existing research within university facilities on short notice, including plans for waste disposal and identification of essential services to maintain research samples, facilities and infrastructure where appropriate.

 

SPECIAL DIRECTIVES FOR HOSPITAL-BASED RESEARCH:

For those whose labs and facilities are physically located in hospital settings, hospitals will be restricting personnel to those deemed essential.

Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare will be screening at the entrances of all their sites. Your McMaster University identification will be required to gain entry.

As the need to ensure the health and safety of patients and hospital staff is a top priority, research within labs and facilities on hospital property will be restricted to research associated with emergency COVID-19 funding or involving activities focusing on patient health and safety, at the approval of the appropriate VPRs (McMaster University, Dr. Karen Mossman; Hamilton Health Sciences, Dr. Ted Scott; St. Joseph’s Healthcare, Dr. Jack Gauldie).

For clinical trials and patient-based research, active accrual should be interrupted until further notice and no new studies should be started.  Trials with scheduled interventions that have already begun should be allowed to continue as long as the individuals registered in the trial pass the active screening that will be in effect at our host hospitals until further notice. 

We appreciate your support during these unprecedented times. Further updates will be shared as the situation develops. FAQs will soon be posted on-line to further assist the research community.

Research-specific issues at SJHH

To: All Research Personnel, including but not limited to: RSJH Staff, SJHH Staff, Physicians, Principal Investigators; McMaster and HHS personnel located at SJHH, Students, and Research Volunteers.

Updates in this message:

  1. Active screening for all persons entering SJHH facilities
  2. Changes to learners at St. Joe's
  3. Clinical trials and other research work at SJHH sites
  4. Returning to SJHH facilities after travel

1. Effective Tuesday, March 17th, 2020, St. Joe’s will enact active screening at its entrances for all persons entering SJHH facilities.

This means:

  • Access to all SJHH buildings, at all three main campus sites, will be restricted.
  • Some entrances will be closed.
  • ALL PERSONS entering St. Joe’s three main campus sites will be screened before entering.
  • Personnel will be screened through a streamlined process. You must have your ID badge in this process as you enter the building.

All personnel: Please use one of the following entrances and bring your ID badge:

 

Charlton from 6 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.

  • Roof Deck (outside of Cafeteria)
  • Luke Entrance to the south of Emergency Entrance door

Charlton from 11:30 p.m. – 6 a.m.

  • Emergency entrance

West 5th

  • Main entrance (West 5th Street) Level 1
  • Outpatient entrance (Fennel Avenue) Level 0

King

  • Main entrance
  • Dialysis entrance

 

Please speak with your manager if you work in an off-campus building.

When you arrive, the following screening questions will be posted:

  1. Do you have a fever and/or new or worsening cough or difficulty breathing?
  2. Have you been in contact with someone who is sick and had travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days?
  3. Have you been in contact with someone with probable or confirmed COVID-19?

If your answer is “NO” to all questions, show your badge to the screener and enter the hospital.

If you travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days and have no fever, new cough, or difficulty breathing, you will be allowed to proceed to work and asked to self-monitor for 14 days.

If your answer is “YES” to any questions above, you will be asked to proceed to a designated location at each campus for secondary screening.

This is an evolving situation and the process for staff/physician screening may change. A digital screening tool for staff/physicians is under development to help expedite the screening process. More updates will be provided over the coming days. We thank you for your patience and understanding during this transition.

At Charlton Campus, there will be separate entrances for screening patients/visitors. These entrances will be the main entrance (Charlton Street driveway), Juravinski Tower level 0 entrance, Fontbonne Level 1 and Emergency Entrance (2100-0600 only).

At West 5th and King Campuses, the same entrances as listed above for personnel will be used, with separate queues for staff/physicians and patients/visitors.

Visit stjoes.ca for more information on the screening process for patients and visitors:https://www.stjoes.ca/our-stories/news/~2078-COVID-19-Screening-at-Hospital-Entrances

 

Hamilton COVID-19 Assessment Centres open

King Campus has opened one of two Hamilton COVID-19 Assessment Centres. The other one is at Hamilton Health Sciences’ Main Street West Urgent Care Centre. For information, go to the Hamilton Public Health website: https://www.hamilton.ca/public-health/covid-19/covid-19-assessment-centres

  

2. Changes to learners at St. Joe's

In collaboration with McMaster University, Mohawk College and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), the following decision was made regarding our learners. We want to emphasize that our learners make valuable contributions to our organization and St. Joe’s remains committed to working with them and our academic partners. This has been a difficult decision and one that has not been made lightly. The situation will continue to be assessed.

All clinical and non-clinical learner placements at St. Joe’s are paused including undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students except for:

  • Post graduate medical residents
  • Clinical fellows
  • Undergraduate Medical Education Program Clinical Clerks
  • RESEARCH LEARNERS (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) who are essential to the continuity of research 

Specific groups: Learning activities at St. Joe’s are paused until further notice for the following groups:

  • All nursing students (including those enrolled in BScN, NP and RPN programs)
  • All Physician Assistant students
  • All students enrolled in inter-professional health care discipline programs
  • RESEARCH LEARNERS (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) non-essential to the continuity of research 

IF YOU ARE NOT CLEAR ON WHETHER YOUR ROLE AND/OR YOUR PHYSICAL PRESENCE ON SITE IS ESSENTIAL TO THE CONTINUITY OF RESEARCH AT THIS TIME OR NOT, CONTACT YOUR SUPERVISOR/Principal Investigator (PI). 

Should questions arise regarding the designation of essential participation or essential research, this can be clarified by PIs/ Supervisors contacting the VP Research SJHH for final decision. Retrospective chart review type of research with no patient contact can be allowed in some instances at VPR discretion.

 

3. Clinical trials and other research work at SJHH sites:

  • Active accrual for clinical trials should be interrupted until further notice.
  • No new studies should be started. New/ongoing studies for essential research such as COVID19-related research can be approved by the VP Research SJHH.
  • Persons already entered into trials with scheduled interventions, should be allowed to continue if they pass the active screening that will be in effect at all three main campus sites of SJHH from March 17th, 2020, until further notice.
  • In due course RSJH administration will be providing notices required under any contracts to indicate the possible effects of current practices on ongoing trials.

 

4. A reminder to all personnel returning from travel:

From the Government of Canada, an official global travel advisory is in effect: Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.

Further information can be found at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/latest-travel-health-advice.html

 

PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A RAPIDLY EVOLVING SITUATION AND ADVICE WILL CHANGE POSSIBLY DAILY.

SJHH position on travel at the present time is:

If you have travelled to ChinaIran or Italy within the past 14 days, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not:

  • YOU CANNOT RETURN TO WORK/SJHH SITE
  • Stay home and self-isolate
  • Inform Employee Health/Occupational Health and Safety at ext. 36131 or email covid19@stjoes.ca
  • Contact your local Public Health Unit (Hamilton Public Health Unit 905 546-2424 ext 7970)
  • RESEARCH LEARNERS – additionally, follow any instructions issued by your academic home

If you have travelled outside of Canada within the past 14 days and are returning to work and if you and your family members who have travelled with you are free of symptoms:

  • Return to work/SJHH site and SELF-MONITOR for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days, including taking your temperature twice a day (Symptoms: New/worsening cough or shortness of breath OR fever)
  • Inform Employee Health/Occupational Health and Safety at ext. 36131 or email covid19@stjoes.ca of your return
  • Stay at home if you develop symptoms and inform Employee Health/Occupational Health and Safety at ext. 36131 or email covid19@stjoes.ca and contact your local Public Health Unit (Hamilton Public Health Unit 905 546-2424 ext 7970)
  • RESEARCH LEARNERS – additionally, follow any instructions issued by your academic home

If you have travelled outside of Canada within the past 14 days and are returning to work and you and/or family members who have travelled with you have symptoms:

  • YOU CANNOT RETURN TO WORK/SJHH SITE
  • Inform Employee Health/Occupational Health and Safety at ext. 36131 or email covid19@stjoes.ca
  • Contact your local Public Health Unit (Hamilton Public Health Unit 905 546-2424 ext 7970) if you develop any symptoms (Symptoms: New/worsening cough or shortness of breath OR fever)
  • RESEARCH LEARNERS – additionally, follow any instructions issued by your academic home

 

Reminder to all staff

At all times, if you are sick or feeling unwell with respiratory symptoms and fever, or nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea stay home and only return to work when you are well. 

Personal travel: St. Joe’s continues to strongly discourage travel outside of Canada.

Work travel: St. Joe’s has discontinued all work travel outside of Canada.

 

More information:

Regular updates on COVID-19 are posted on MyStJoes, the hospital intranet:  

 

We encourage everyone to turn to trusted sources for information:

World Health Organization – More information

HiREB Protocol Amendments

During the current COVID-19 pandemic situation researchers need to consider their in-person interactions with participants/patients. You are reminded to follow your institutional/public health policies for participant/patient management.

Should your current protocol or study design require revision to now include alternate forms of interaction with participants/patients (whether consent or study visits), you will still need to submit an amendment to the HiREB. If you need to implement changes to eliminate immediate hazards for staff or participants, then such a change would be reported to us as a protocol deviation.

Please note the HiREB will process these amendments as priority.

 

2020 Research Institute Awards Program - Deadline Extension

Due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, the application deadline for the 2020 Research Institute Awards Program has been extended to April 30, 2020, 11:59pm. (originally March 31). This extension will allow extra time for those whose ability to meet the original deadline has been impacted by the current situation.

For Studentship Award applications, unofficial transcripts will be accepted with the understanding that the official transcript will be sent at a later date (to be determined). This is to accommodate McMaster University’s deferral of all transcript requests made to the Registrar’s Office. 

Visit the Awards page to learn more and apply online.

 

Hospital Visitor Restrictions

As part of our ongoing efforts to protect the public, patients, staff, and physicians from the potential transmission of the COVID-19 virus, effective March 20, 2020, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton is implementing a no visitor policy.

Click here to learn more about the No Visitor policy.

 

Guidelines on the Management of Critically Ill Adults with Coronavirus Disease 2019

The guidelines can be accessed freely on the Society of Critical Care Medicine website.