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Plan for the resumption of on-site research activities

At the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre and the Marie-Enfant Rehabilitation Centre

Academic communities in Quebec are coordinating the progressive and safe resumption of their research activities in compliance with the guidelines of the General Directorate of Public Health (Direction générale de la santé publique - DGSP). In this way the Research Directorate of the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre has developed a plan for gradually returning to research activities according to strict criteria and requirements.

We would like to point out that this plan will be reviewed and updated based on how activities start up again and the pandemic develops. It is important to realize that if you begin experiments within the next few weeks, you may not be able to finalize them if the pandemic intensifies and tighter lockdown restrictions are announced.


1. General Principles

The guidelines issued in the March 16 communiqué about maintaining essential research activities are no longer applicable. This document redefines the activities that may be carried out within the context of this phase of gradually resuming research activities.

Any activities that do not require your on-site presence at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre (CHUSJ) and the Marie-Enfant Rehabilitation Centre (CRME) should continue to be performed remotely.

Activities that require your on-site presence at the CHUSJ or the CRME must be carried out in compliance with the guidelines issued by the CHUSJ concerning physical distancing, hand hygiene, the use of personal protection equipment and other health measures. In addition, certain measures specific to our research setting have also been developed. These various guidelines are summarized below.

2. Training sessions and pledge of honour

Before resuming on-site activities, all investigators, employees and students (including postdoctoral fellows) must:

  1. become aware of this plan, including the associated documents, according to their areas of expertise:
    1. Plan for the resumption of research activities – Common Platforms
    2. Management guidelines for clinical studies during the COVID-19 pandemic (in French only)
  2.  take training on how to handle masks:
    1. in French
    2. in English
  3. take training on hand hygiene:
    1. in French
    2. in English

All investigators are responsible for ensuring that the members of their teams have made themselves aware of this plan and taken the training sessions. 

All investigators must fill out and email a form (in French only) to the Research Directorate  (dossierrh@recherche-ste-justine.qc.cain which they solemnly swear that they made themselves aware of the plan and that they will make sure that it is respected by the members of their teams. 

3. What to consider before going to the CHUSJ and the CRME

Transportation. We encourage you to avoid public transport during rush hour. If applicable, community hygiene and safety recommendations (distancing, wearing a mask, etc.) made by the DGSP must be strictly applied.

If you come by car, we can confirm that the Brébeuf College and HÉC parking lots as well as the interior parking lot of the CHUSJ are accessible for those who have obtained a temporary sticker valid until May 30. No other additional stickers are available. This agreement will not be extended.

Symptoms. You must NOT come to the CHUSJ or CRME if you have coronavirus infection-like symptoms (fever, cough, respiratory problems, loss of taste or smell, etc.). If you do have these symptoms, you must immediately contact, your Research Director, the Research Directorate (rh.crhsj@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca) and the Health Office of the CHUSJ (514-345-4931, Ext. 4882 or 4704). The Health Office will determine whether protection, isolation or screening measures must be implemented.

Contacts. You must NOT come to the CHUSJ or CRME if you have been in contact with people who have coronavirus symptoms or a confirmed coronavirus infection. If you have, you must immediately contact, your Research Director, the Research Directorate (rh.crhsj@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca) and the Health Office of the CHUSJ (514-345-4931, Ext. 4882 or 4704). The Health Office will determine whether protection, isolation or screening measures have to be implemented.

Jobs or traineeship at another organization. If you have been an employee, trainee or volunteer at another organization over the last two weeks, you must fill out the form (in French only) and send it to the Health Office at the following address: covid‐19.sst.hsj@ssss.gouv.qc.ca. A nurse will then contact you to give you instructions about the conditions of your return to the CHUSJ or CRME.

Travel. Trips outside Canada must be limited to essential travel and must be followed by a 14-day voluntary isolation period until further notice.

4. Access to the CHUSJ and the CRME

On-site reception. At the entrances to the CHUSJ and the CRME, a security guard is present to confirm that you are wearing an employee card, to require that you disinfect your hands and to confirm the absence of COVID-19-related symptoms. The security guard will provide you with a mask every day when you arrive at the institution.

Trainees. No research trainees will be admitted to the CHUSJ and the CRME until further notice. On-site summer studentships have been cancelled. Only research studentships that do not require an on-site presence at the CHUSJ and the CRME are allowed.

Visitors. Visits from technicians or outside firms related to the maintenance of common equipment or research infrastructure are permitted, but they must be pre-approved by the Research Directorate team that will coordinate following up on the request with the person concerned. Requests to this effect must be emailed to Sylvie Julien (serv-tech.crhsj@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca). Monitoring visits for clinical research studies must be approved by Nathalie Bureau (nathalie.bureau@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca). All other research-related visits to the CHUSJ or CRME sites must be approved by the Research Directorate (sophiekellie.bergeron@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca).

5. Guidelines governing on-site research activities

5.1 – Research teams: limiting the number of people admitted to the CHUSJ Research Centre and the CRME Technopôle

Guidelines aimed at limiting the number of people present in research areas at the CHUSJ and the CRME vary according to the different environments:

5.1.1 – Wet spaces in Block 17 (2nd to 7th floors). In order to respect distancing requirements, each laboratory must limit the number of people present in the Research Centre. The resumption of activities in the labs will proceed in phases:

Phase 1. As of May 25, laboratories may restart their activities, but the number of people per 50-m² lab module must be limited to 2 at all times, even if during the day these people do not work in the module, but in other areas like closed offices, primary and secondary support areas and the various specialized platforms, including the Animal House. For example, an investigator whose lab corresponds to 1.5 modules may receive a maximum of 3 people at the Research Center at the same time. Please refer to the following layout of a standard wet lab module in Block 17:

The presence of additional people will only be allowed in the context of COVID-19 projects and must be approved by the Research Directorate Committee.

We will forward floor plans indicating the modules assigned to each of the teams by the Research Directorate and its Space Committee on to the heads of the research axes and those in charge of the communities. The investigators may contact them if they have any questions about the areas assigned to them. Unassigned modules that are still free cannot be taken into consideration when calculating the number of people that can be present for each lab.

Before May 25, all investigators must email Human Resources (rh.crhsj@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca) the schedule of their teams’ presence at the Research Center for Phase  1 of the renewal of activities (May 25 – June 8, 2020) using the form (in French only). This plan should encourage remote work as much as possible to minimize the presence of team members at the Research Centre during this period of progressive resumption of activity. Among the options to consider are: some members of the team could start working very early and others later or even on weekends while promoting their work-family balance. You are asked to indicate whether some people will work after 7 p.m. in your scheduling proposals so that Sylvie Julien may provide them with access to the Research Centre during the evening.

The schedules will be shared with the heads of the research axes and those in charge of the communities who will ensure that the guidelines are applied in concert with the Research Directorate.

Phase 2. If we note that the renewal of the activities takes place in accordance with the guidelines, starting June 8, we will move on to the second phase during which the number of people per 50-m² lab module will be limited at all times to a maximum of 4. In this way, an investigator whose lab corresponds to 1.5 modules will be able to receive a maximum of 6 people at the Research Center at the same time. Investigators will have to provide us with their teams’ schedules before June 8 for Phase 2 by following the same procedure as for Phase 1.

Phase 3. According to how the renewal of activity goes and the pandemic develops, we will be able to receive all the team members who cannot work remotely within the framework of Phase 3 of the renewal of activities. At this point, we have not yet set a date to initiate Phase 3. 

5.1.2 - Dry areas (Floors A and B of the Research Center, Block 7 floor, Charles-Bruneau Oncology Centre). We expect almost all of the teams that usually work in the dry areas to continue to work predominantly on a remote basis. The presence of members of these teams at the CHUSJ or CRME sites should be an exception and will have to be validated through an agreement with your investigator or manager and reported to the Research Directorate (rh.crhsj@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca). An example for justifying presence in these areas is the need for functional computer access that cannot be obtained through the security tokens provided by the Research Centre.

The managers of the various clinical research units (UNIR, URCHOI, CCEsAM, URCO…) will be responsible for authorizing the presence of nurses and research assistants attached to the CHUSJ and CRME sites.

5. 2 - Human Resources

5.2.1 – Vulnerable people. For employees and students who have a recognized chronic disease or a weakened immune status or who are pregnant, we invite you to contact the CHUSJ Health Office (514-345-4931, ext. 4882 or 4704) who will determine if you can perform face-to-face work.

5.2.2 – Being prevented from working on site. We also ask employees or students with children who are minors and who must stay home to take care of them to discuss ways of performing their work duties from home with their investigator and to get in touch with Human Resources at the Research Directorate should there be any disagreement or trouble doing so.

5.2.3 – Time sheets. Since some employees will change their work schedule in order to avoid rush hour traffic using public transport and to respect the limitations set on being on site, these employees will have to enter their actual hours worked according to the new schedules when they complete their timesheets in the Logicbec GRH pay system. In addition, overtime is not permitted unless there is an agreement with the employee’s investigator or manager. By respecting the instructions received from the CHUSJ Pay Department, the hours worked at home using remote working tools will have to continue to be identified via code TELTRA.

5.3 - Physical distancing principles in the common areas

You must maintain a distance of 2 metres from others at all times.

5.3.1 – Wet floor (Block 17). The number of people authorized in the primary support rooms (ex.: culture and microscopy rooms, chemical hood and large equipment rooms and secondary support rooms [radioactivity, black, freezer, stock and cold rooms]) is limited to 2 people.

Employees who occupied closed offices before the COVID-19 crisis can no longer share these offices with colleagues and there can only be one person per closed office on all of the floors from the 2nd to the 7th of Block 17. Please contact your investigator if relocation is necessary.

The two common study areas per floor of the wet labs cannot receive more than 4 students at a time according to the different work schedules that will be set up by the investigators. These areas include a reduced number of available chairs.

5.3.2 – Dry areas (Blocks 17, 7,9 and Charles-Bruneau Canceroly Centre). If, exceptionally, you must come to work in the dry areas of the Research Centre, you must strictly respect the principles of physical distancing. In addition, there must be only one single person per closed office. You must avoid working in the adjacent cubicles on floors A and B of Block 17. François Fontaine will coordinate, along with the investigators and the various units, the setting up of physical distancing measures for the dry areas of Block 7 and Charles-Bruneau and will organize relocations, if need be.

5.3.3 – Rest and meal areas. We ask you to avoid being in a group for meals and breaks. We therefore ask you to limit the number of people eating or taking breaks at the same time in the rest areas of the Research Centre. For this reason, a limited number of chairs is now available to respect distancing measures. Please note that the meeting rooms on Floors A, B and 2 to 7 (Block 17) may be used for eating purposes. For this reason, the removable panels in the meeting rooms from the 2nd to the 7th floors have been opened to increase the area available for eating or taking breaks. So, until further notice, it is not permitted to close these panels and hold lab meetings in these areas.

5.3.4 – Research Directorate Floor. As is the case for the research teams, the Research Directorate has limited the presence of its staff in the Research Centre by, in part, working remotely for positions that allow its staff to do so. We understand that the resumption of activities will lead teams to interact with the staff of the Research Directorate team. For this reason, we ask for your cooperation in limiting any comings and goings on the Research Directorate floor.

5.3.5 – Meetings. No meetings that require participants be physically on site should take place. We ask that you use videoconferencing options for your team meetings.

5.3.6 – Elevators. The policy on using elevators throughout the CHUSJ is clearly identified by signage in each elevator. Floor stickers (decals) and notices will remind you that physical distancing must be respected and the maximum number of people authorized in each elevator is 4 people.

5.4 - Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

5.4.1 - Masks. Wearing a mask is mandatory at any time unless you are alone in a closed room or office.

5.4.1.1 – Masks for employees and students who do not have any contact with patients and their families. Every day you will be provided with a procedure or cloth mask by a security guard on your arrival at the CHUSJ or the CRME. Masks must be replaced during the day if they become humid or dirty and disposed of properly as soon as they are soiled or damaged. If you need a 2nd mask during  the day, please request one by email at: dossierrh@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca.

5.4.1.2 – Masks for employees and students who have contact with patients and their families. Clinical research staff who are in contact with patients will immediately receive two procedure masks every day. The masks will be distributed by the managers of the clinical research units.

5.4.2 – Protective Eyewear. Research staff will have to wear protective eyewear when in the presence of patients or their families. This eyewear will be provided by the managers of the clinical research units.

5.4.3 – Gloves. Gloves can become a very powerful vector of transmission if users do not pay attention to the movements they make. We, therefore, call upon you to wear them only when handling samples and devices in wet labs and to avoid touching other surfaces (ex.: doorknobs). They must be thrown of properly after each use. Wearing them as personal protection in the common and public areas of the CHUSJ is strictly prohibited.

5.5 - Hygiene and cleaning measures

5.5.1 - Washing your hands. We call on you to wash your hands regularly, particularly after touching any shared public device such as doorknobs, toilettes, the surfaces of meal areas, elevator buttons, biometric readers in freezer rooms, photocopiers, etc. Wall dispensers or bottles containing hydroalcoholic disinfectant solution have been added for this purpose and are located at several strategic locations in all the research areas. If a distributor is empty, please mention it to Sylvie Julien (serv-tech.crhsj@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca).

5.5.2 – Cleaning of surfaces. Containers of disposable wipes and quaternary ammonium-based disinfectant or chlorine or peroxide are provided and located at a number of strategic locations, such as in freezer, shared equipment, photocopier and recycling rooms to decontaminate the surface of shared devices such as biometric readers, keyboards and photocopiers. The decontamination of lab benchtop surfaces must also be done by research staff using 70% alcohol-based solutions and disposable wipes.

We urge you to consider the following practices for computer keyboards or touch screens:

  • Sharing office workstations and work computers without disinfecting them between each use is to be avoided. 
  • It is also possible to simply use a Kimwipe soaked in a hydroalcoholic solution (70% ethanol) to directly disinfect the keyboards. It is important that you never disinfect the tactile screen of a scientific apparatus with a chlorine, ammonium or peroxide wipe.
  • Certain computer keyboards and tactile screens can be permanently covered with a plastic film to protect the devices and facilitate the disinfection procedure with disposable wipes. The Research Directorate will provide this film and install it and replace it in strategic locations by doing regular rounds.    

5.5.3 – Mail and merchandise delivery. Mail, parcels and merchandise delivered to the laboratories are not disinfected by the Logistics Department. You are therefore asked to apply strict and rigorous hand hygiene after handling the merchandise you receive. It is recommended that you spray parcels with a 70% alcohol-based or activated hydrogen peroxide (commercial product) disinfectant solution. Leave it on for about 2 minutes to ensure the efficacy of the procedure.

5.5.4 – Site cleaning and maintenance. The CHUSJ Hygiene and Sanitation Department has confirmed to us that all the cleaning and disinfection routes are done rigorously and appropriately in the public areas, wet labs and office areas. A disinfectant that is effective against SARS-CoV-2 is used every day in all these areas.

6. Common platforms

When users wish to use an instrument from a platform, they must reserve the device on the platform management portal plateformes-crchusj.ca. On your arrival at the platform or to use common self-serve instruments you must disinfect your hands or your gloves and the device before use. For details on the disinfection method specific to each device and the specific characteristics of each of the common platforms, please refer to the document on platform management in a COVID-19. If you have any questions about the common platforms, please contact Valérie Villeneuve, the person in charge of common platforms (valerie.villeneuve@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca or ext. 2786).

7. Clinical research

The following clinical research activities will be authorized to continue or resume (including patient recruitment) as of May 25:

  • Clinical trials with Health Canada No-Objection Letter (NOL) for which the expected benefits are significant for patient care, a halt would be prejudicial to patients or that offer a last resort intervention in therapeutic strategy;
  • COVID-19-related research activities;
  • Clinical studies that meet the following criteria:
    • The participant to be met by the research staff is in a cold zone (i.e., no research staff will penetrate a hot zone [suspected COVID-19 cases] or hot zone [confirmed COVID-19 cases]).
    • Visits required for the research project coincide with care visits to the CHUSJ or the CRME (no visits only for the research project).
  • Studies that do not require any on-site presence at the CHUSJ or CRME sites may continue, including:
    • Any research activity that may be done remotely;
    • Studies with consultations and follow-ups that can be done virtually (without contact with the participants).

The new projects under preparation and evaluation that do not meet the above criteria may progress administratively (ethics approval, contract, budget, feasibility, etc.) and thereby be ready to start when restrictions are lifted.

Please refer to the recently announced management policy for clinical studies during the COVID-V2 pandemic. (in French only)

8. CRME Technopôle

The on-site activities authorized at the CRME are the following:

  • projects that require access to infrastructure (ex.: analysis software not accessible off site, 3D printer…)
  • clinical studies that respect the following criteria:
    • The participant to be met by the research staff is in a cold zone (i.e., no research staff will penetrate a warm zone [suspected COVID-19 cases] or hot zone [confirmed COVID-19 cases]).
    • Visits required for the research project coincide with visits to the CRME for routine care (no research visits solely for the research project).

Policies and requirements related to the proper use specific to each platform of the Technopole (Lokomat, FLOAT, GRAIL, 3D printing, virtual reality, etc..) will be developed by the Directorates and investigators concerned and be available shortly.

9. Failure to observe guidelines and monitoring

The proper application of the guidelines in order to ensure a safe work environment is everyone’s responsibility. The consequences of failing to comply with these directives are the risk of transmitting the coronavirus within our community, which would lead to health risks for each of us and an undesired return to the partial or complete suspension of research activities.

Those in charge of the communities and the heads of the research axes will be involved in applying and complying with all of the established guidelines. Any breach in complying with the guidelines must be reported to them. Other monitoring measures of compliance with the guidelines and follow-up on breaches will also be put in place. Access to research areas will be withdrawn from people who do not comply with the guidelines and their teams’ research activities may be suspended.

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Updated on 5/20/2020
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