Frequently Asked Questions

Below is information about COVID-19 that is specific to patients and visitors of the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario.  For all general information about COVID-19 from Kingston Health Sciences Centre, including screening questions, please click here.

Questions (updated April 7, 2021):

  1. Is my clinic appointment at the Cancer Centre cancelled?
  2. I am receiving radiation treatments. What do I do?
  3. I have an appointment at the Ontario Breast Screening Clinic. Is it cancelled?
  4. Will my cancer surgery be cancelled? 
  5. How much medication should I keep on hand in case I can’t go to the clinic or pharmacy to pick up more?
  6. What are you doing to protect us from possible infection when we come for a visit?
  7. What can I do to prevent getting infected?
  8. As a patient on cancer treatment, should I wear a face mask?
  9. As a patient on cancer treatment, is it safe for me to go to work?
  10. As a patient on cancer treatment, is it safe for me to go outside?
  11. Is the George Street entrance to the Cancer Centre closed? How do I get in for my appointment?
  12. Can I still bring my family member to their appointment?
  13. I can’t get through on the phone. What do I do?
  14. My friend/family member is an inpatient on a cancer unit. Can I still visit?
  15. I am concerned I might have COVID-19. Should I go to a COVID-19 assessment centre?
  16. I am participating in a cancer clinical trial. Will my clinical trial still continue?
  17. I receive my care at a satellite site. Do these answers apply to me?
  18. I am a caregiver of a patient. Where can I go to the washroom while I wait for my loved one to complete their appointment?
  19. Why are you screening patients and caregivers at the entrance?

  20. What happens if I don’t pass screening? 

Questions about the COVID vaccine for cancer patients 

  1. Will you be providing the COVID vaccine? 
  2. How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine for people with cancer?  
  3. Does the COVID-19 vaccine have side effects? 
  4. How is the COVID-19 vaccine given?
  5. How long does it take for the vaccine to protect against COVID-19? 
  6. When will the vaccine be available for people with cancer? 
  7. At what point in treatment is the best time for people with cancer to get the vaccine? 
  8. Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause an allergic reaction? 

      

Answers:

 1. Is my clinic appointment at the Cancer Centre cancelled?

We are reducing the number of elective surgeries, non-emergency procedures and clinic visits we provide in order to prioritize services during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

It is still very important that you go to your tests and treatments as scheduled. If you have an upcoming procedure which needs to be rescheduled, your care team will contact you. 

Appointments that are impacted have been carefully reviewed by the care team and determined to be safe for postponement. These appointments will be re-booked when we’re safely able to expand the number of visits to the Cancer Centre. If you have questions on the status of your appointment please contact your doctor’s office at the Cancer Centre.

2. I am receiving radiation treatments. What do I do?

Your radiation appointments will continue as scheduled. 

3. I have an appointment at the Ontario Breast Screening Clinic. Is it cancelled?

No. The Ontario Breast Screening Clinic at Hotel Dieu Hospital and on Discovery Avenue are still open with safety measures in place. If you have any questions about screening during this time, please contact screening@cancercare.on.ca

4. Will my cancer surgery be cancelled? 

Time-sensitive care for certain cancers will continue to be provided. Your surgeon’s office will contact you if your upcoming surgery is impacted by circumstances beyond our control. We will make every effort to have your surgery done as quickly as possible.

5. How much medication should I keep on hand in case I can’t go to the clinic or pharmacy to pick up more?

Pharmacies are an essential service and will continue to be available to meet patient medication needs. At this time, it is not necessary to request additional refill quantities. The previous 30-day dispensing restriction was lifted on June 15, meaning pharmacists may once again dispense up to a maximum of 100 days supply of medications as directed by the prescriber. 

If you need your prescription delivered, please ask your dispensing pharmacy about delivery options.

If you are running low on your prescription medication please ask your dispensing pharmacy to fax a refill request.

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

We are taking many precautions, including limiting the number of people on-site and restricting access to the Cancer Centre. We are working closely with our Infection Prevention & Control (IPC) team to ensure the best practices are maintained to protect our patients, visitors and staff. This includes cleaning surfaces by the protocols recommended by IPC, limiting visitors, having active screening in place for symptoms of COVID-19 at all entrances and using the proper personal protective equipment (like masks and gowns) when needed.

7. What can I do to prevent getting infected?

Like all members of the general public you should do your best to avoid infection. This includes:

  • Avoiding crowded public places
  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water (20 to 30 sec)
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoiding others who are unwell
  • Staying home whenever possible

Patients on chemotherapy or who have had a stem cell transplantation may need to take further precautions such as making efforts to minimize trips out of the house (e.g. consider ways of getting food brought to your house through family, social or commercial networks).

8. As a patient on cancer treatment, should I wear a face mask?

Yes. You will be required to wear a face mask when you are attending an appointment at the Cancer Centre. We are providing homemade masks for you to wear when you enter the building. Click here for more information about wearing a mask.

9. As a patient on cancer treatment, is it safe for me to go to work? 

Social distancing is recommended for our patients to limit the risk of acquiring COVID-19. This includes limiting crowded and closed spaces — such as a crowded bus or train, movie theaters, malls, sporting arenas, restaurants, etc. Read about additional measures you can take to practice social distancing here

If work puts you in close contact with other people (i.e. healthcare, retail service), it is recommended that you not be at work if you can at all avoid it.  If possible, work remotely from home.

10. As a patient on cancer treatment, is it safe for me to go outside and get exercise?

Cancer patients on treatment may also be at an increased risk of blood clots and other complications from lack of movement.  Staying active during this time is important, and at the current time you can still leave home. You may plan to take walks around the neighborhood (keeping more than two meters away from others) and go grocery shopping during off-peak hours if it cannot be done by someone else. If you do your own grocery shopping make sure you bring your own grocery bags, disinfect cart handles, and wash hands or use hand sanitizer after using the cart. The most important action you can take to protect yourself is prevention; washing your hands often is critical.

11. Is the George Street entrance to the Cancer Centre closed? How do I get in for my appointment?

Yes, the George Street entrance to the Cancer Centre is closed. All patients are to use the Burr 0 main entrance, located at 25 King Street West, to enter and exit the Cancer Centre. There is active screening in place at this entrance.

12. Who can come with me to my appointment?

It is crucial that we keep our patients and workforce as safe as possible. To help us do this, we are limiting all visitors – including family members of patients – to the Cancer Centre. You may be able to use technology to have your family listen or be ‘virtually’ present for an appointment, but please inform your treating physician.  Click here to learn more about virtual visits and how you can arrange a virtual visit.

Ambulatory cancer patients who require assistance may be accompanied by one adult caregiver. This caregiver will also undergo screening at the entrance to the Cancer Centre and only permitted to enter if they pass the screening process. However, no visitors will be allowed in the systemic treatment unit. If you are an approved visitor you may wait for your loved one in the waiting room. Please speak to your loved one’s care team in advance to be approved as a visitor.

Patient drivers are not permitted to enter the building with the patient. If you have a driver, please ensure you have made arrangements so they are aware when your appointment has finished and you are ready to leave.

13. I can’t get through on the phone. What do I do?

If you have a medical emergency please hang up and dial 911 or proceed to your nearest Emergency Department. 

If this is not a medical emergency, please know that we are experiencing a high volume of calls at this time. We understand that this is frustrating at this uncertain time and appreciate your patience as our staff work to answer questions and return calls.

If you are a patient on active treatment and experiencing a symptom after 4pm and require immediate assistance please call CAREChart@home at 1-877-681-3057 to speak to a specialized cancer care nurse.  

If you have general questions about COVID-19 please visit Public Health here or call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

14. My friend/family member is an in-patient on a cancer unit. Can I still visit?

Due to the province-wide shutdown to curb the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are changing our visiting policy to permit fewer registered visitors to our hospital sites. We know that for some patients and families, this is upsetting news.  However, this temporary step is necessary to help protect our very sick patients and our staff who provide care.  We must all work to keep our hospital and our community safe from COVID-19 so that we can provide highly specialized care in our region. 

Please click here to see Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s current visitor restrictions.

While we know you want to support your loved one, we strongly suggest you consider rescheduling your visit or turning it into a virtual visit if possible. Click here to learn more about virtual visits and how you can arrange a virtual visit.

Access to the Kingston General Hospital site is restricted to the main entrance, located at 76 Stuart Street, and you will be screened for symptoms upon arrival. 

15. I am concerned I might have COVID-19. Should I go to a COVID-19 assessment centre?

No. Please do not visit the recently opened public COVID-19 assessment centres.

If you have a fever or other symptoms of infection and are on cancer treatment, go to your nearest Emergency Department.

If you are not on cancer treatment and are experiencing symptoms that may be COVID-19 please contact your doctor’s office immediately between 8 am and 4 pm. 

If you are a patient on active treatment and experiencing symptoms after 4pm and require immediate assistance please call CAREChart@home at 1-877-681-3057 to speak to a specialized cancer care nurse.  

If you are not on active treatment and have questions about COVID-19 please call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

16. I am participating in a cancer clinical trial. Will my clinical trial still continue?

Cancer clinical trial participants on active treatment will continue to be treated as directed by your Study Investigator (treating cancer physician). Please ensure that you identify as a ‘Cancer Research Study Participant’ and present your study participant wallet card to all healthcare professionals while you are receiving study treatment.

If you are a study participant on follow-up for the research study, your follow-up will be done over the phone. The research team and staff will be contacting you directly to arrange this. If questionnaires need to be completed, they will be mailed to you one week in advance. A return self-stamped envelope will be provided to return completed questionnaires.

If you have any questions or concerns related to your clinical trial, please contact the research study staff listed on your wallet card or email CC-ClinicalTrials@KingstonHSC.ca

17. I receive my care at a satellite site. Do these answers apply to me?

All satellite sites 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 staff at the specific site on their practices.  Otherwise, as a patient receiving cancer treatment, all of the recommendations above still apply to you.

18. I am a caregiver of a patient. Where can I go to the washroom while I wait for my loved one to complete their appointment?

We currently have a restricted family presence policy in place, which means many caregivers will be unable to enter the Cancer Centre with their loved one. To help make the wait more comfortable we have installed portable washrooms outside the Cancer Centre main entrance, located at 25 King Street West. These washrooms can be accessed during daytime outpatient hours and will be cleaned daily.

19. Why are you screening patients and caregivers at the entrance?

We are proactively screening everyone who enters our Hotel Dieu Hospital and Kingston General Hospital sites. Screening helps us quickly identify patients and staff who have signs and symptoms or are at risk of having a COVID-19 infection. Please also come a few minutes early for your scheduled procedure or appointment as it takes a few minutes to go through the screening process when you enter. 

Please bring a mask with you for your appointment.  If you do not have a mask, we will give you will be provided with a mask and you can go to your appointment. 

Support persons who answer yes to any of the questions are not permitted to enter the building. Please speak with your loved one’s care team in advance to be approved to accompany them as a support person.

To see the screening questions that you can expect to be asked, please click here. Please review these questions 24 hours before each appointment and if you answer yes to any of these questions, please call your cancer care team immediately.  Your cancer care team will talk about your care choices with you.

20. What happens if I don’t pass screening? 

If you screen positive by answering “yes” to any of the screening questions:

  • You may be sent to clinic F to be tested for COVID-19.
  • Your care team will be contacted to assess your screening results and make a decision about the next steps, including the need for a COVID-19 test.
  • Your appointment or treatment may be delayed until your results are available and only if it is safe to do so. Urgent treatments will not be delayed. Patients who screen positive and are in urgent need of treatment will be seen with extended safety measures.

We know that it may be frustrating to have your appointment delayed, however, it is absolutely essential for us to take these measures to protect you, our vulnerable patients and essential staff. Answering the screening questions honestly makes it easier for us to assess your best care options. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

 

Answers about the COVID vaccine for cancer patients 

Click here to see the complete document from Cancer Care Ontario about the COVID vaccine for cancer patients 

1. Will you be providing the COVID vaccine? 

Right now, details are still coming together around the COVID vaccine such as how it will be distributed, and who will be prioritized. We will be sharing this information with our patients as soon as possible. 

2. How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine for people with cancer?  
 
The COVID-19 vaccine has been tested on thousands of people and has proven to be safe.  Health Canada only approves vaccines that meet strict safety and efficacy (how well something works) standards. The COVID-19 vaccines have had the same safety checks and testing as any other vaccine that has been approved. The COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been tested on people with cancer. From studying other vaccines, such as the flu shot, doctors say that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for most with people with cancer. You cannot get infected with COVID-19 from the vaccine.  

3. Does the COVID-19 vaccine have side effects? 

Serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine are very rare. Most side-effects from the COVID19 vaccine are mild and will go away on their own. The most common side effects are: 
 
• pain in your arm where the needle was given
 • fatigue (feeling very tired)
• headache
• body chills
• muscle aches
• joint pain
• fever (a temperature taken by mouth of 38.3◦ C (100.9 F) or higher one time or 38.0◦ C (100.4◦ F) for at least one hour)
• diarrhea
• vomiting 

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. Side effects are more likely to happen after your second dose. If side-effects last for more than 2-3 days, make sure you speak to your health care team.  
  

 4. How is the COVID-19 vaccine given? 
 
The two approved COVID-19 vaccines are given by an injection (shot) into the muscle of your upper arm. The full vaccine is two shots that are given a few weeks apart. Both shots are needed for the vaccine to work.  We will know more details about how future COVID-19 vaccines will be given once they have been approved by Health Canada. 

5. How long does it take for the vaccine to protect against COVID-19? 
 
Both approved COVID-19 vaccines protect you about 7-14 days after you get the second shot of the vaccine.  More studies are needed to know how well the vaccine works for people with cancer. Some people with cancer may not get as much protection from the vaccine, but any amount of protection helps to keep you safe.  
  

6. When will the vaccine be available for people with cancer? 

The government is rolling out a three-phase plan to ensure that people can get COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are available. Some people with cancer may be able to get the vaccine before some other groups.  Since COVID-19 can cause people with cancer to get very sick, you should talk with your health care team about getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available.  

 7. At what point in treatment is the best time for people with cancer to get the vaccine? 

 Speak to your health care team to decide the right time for you to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Your health care team can help you decide based on: 

• your medical history
• the details of your cancer and treatment 

8. Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause an allergic reaction? 

There have been reports of people having an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. If you have a severe allergy to anything, speak with your health care team before getting the vaccine.  For more information about the ingredients in the vaccine and advice for people with severe allergies, look at the following websites:  
 
Ontario Ministry of Health’s Information Sheet on Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines 
 
Health Canada Recommendations for People with Serious Allergies