Please Note: Our knowledge about best practices for COVID19 is changing all the time as new information becomes available. Please refer to our most recent update for the most up to date information.
So I wanted to update you once again regarding Covid19. I’ll review some of the changes in office policies we’ve put in place over the last week, and some excellent actions taken by the government to make family medicine care more accessible. That part is important for everyone to read. Further down I’ll review some of the key improvements in our understanding of this pest, and how that may affect how this evolves (and when we get out of ‘jail’).
Office Policies and Access to Care
As much as I am often very frustrated with government policies, they really came through this time, and very quickly. Usually physicians are highly restricted in how we communicate with you (for example we get minimal to no compensation for phone calls). We are now (temporarily) allowed to manage your care over the phone as needed. Various other limits have been removed as well to simplify remote provision of care. The government has made an order that no employer may ask for ‘sick notes’. These were quick emergency measures, and they are looking at some additional changes if this is insufficient. There is a clear recognition that they need to maintain your access to care.
I do encourage everyone to mainly use video consults, as I find I get a better sense of how you are doing when I can see you. However, if this is too difficult for you, or if we run into any technical problems, don’t stress about it, we will just use/switch to phone. The phone may show, ‘unknown caller’ at your appointment time, please be sure to answer that one. Most online booking spots have been switched to “video”, so they are widely available, but if you prefer a phone call, please just make a quick note of that in the message area, and please write the number you want to be reached at. Please also be sure to treat these appointments just like in-office ones, by being available on time.
While I usually discourage video/phone calls for visits in relation to new or worsening symptoms, this will be partially relaxed for now. We can begin a consult that way, and I will determine if an in-office visit will be necessary.
The office will be available for select in-office visits, and we have taken a large number of steps to make it safe. First of all, if you came in now, you’d likely find it very empty. All the physicians at the office are doing primarily video consults, and our in-office times are staggered. We will also be spacing out any in-office visits by putting video consults in between, so there will usually be no more than 1-2 patients in the entire office at a time. Most support staff are working remotely. We have designated rooms for possible infections, and no one will be seen in those rooms if they are coming in for some other issue. So please don’t be scared about coming in. Some in-office appointment slots will start being opened up over the next couple of days as well. All the same, the majority of your care will likely be managed by video/phone.
Please bear in mind that eventually the government will remove these allowances, but for now I am very thankful to them for taking this valuable, supportive action quickly.
Please note that testing for COVID19 is very limited at the moment, mainly to patients in hospital, and potentially affected health care workers.
There is a self-assessment tool you can use from home, here:
Live updated wait times at emergency rooms and urgent care centers is here:
The COVID19 Situation in BC
The aggressive actions that have been taken with most people staying home was unquestionably the right move. It’s hard on everyone, but it was absolutely necessary. While we will need to wait to see how this evolves, I am very hopeful that these measures will help get this under control soon.
Keep in mind, that because it takes between 5-14 days for people to show symptoms, and (at least) a couple more days to be identified, cases will continue to rise over the next week, even if we have all been staying home all the time. It will look like its just getting worse and worse. What we see today in terms of positive cases, is actually how things were about a week ago. Some time next week, if this goes according to plan, the number of new cases per day
will flatten, and then very slowly start to drop. It may be hard to tell at first, as the number go up and down a bit. If we get a steady drop in new cases, the entire strategy may then start to change, although this depends on many factors. China has had zero new cases a few days in a row now, and restrictions there have started to relax. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore have demonstrated ways to keep society functioning, with people working and schools open, but this depends on first controlling this early surge.
There are a growing number of ideas coming up from all over the world about how to control all this using these measures, while enabling the vast majority of people (and eventually everyone) to resume a normal life. Our ability to relax social distancing may depend in part on getting more testing kits. We are very low at the moment, but there are supposedly 800K new ones on their way to Canada.
In the meantime, the amount of information doctors are sharing behind the scenes is unprecedented, locally, nationally, and internationally. The doctors at our office are in near constant communication, many times per day to share ideas and adapt. I have seen the detailed plans for what happens in our hospitals if things do get much worse, and they are very well thought out. Doctors (and many others) everywhere are stepping up. I held a webinar for 150 community physicians the other day to teach them all how to do video consults. This was shared with hundreds of other physicians as well. We had a few days of crisis mode, but are finding our footing, and starting to think ahead. Please continue to be very diligent about keeping away from others, and excellent hand hygiene if
you have to go out. Hang in there! We’ll get past this.
I expect there will be a lot of new information in the next 2-3 days and will update you again. Speak to you soon…
North Shore Medical Group
As a collective of physicians NSMG has taken it upon themselves to help our patients and our community stay informed with the latest pressing information ranging from important office updates to the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic.