Effective immediately, West Coast Family Medical Clinic will no longer see patients who have a family physician at another clinic as part of changes arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have long encouraged patients to see their own doctors, in order to allow us to serve more unattached patients, but this is now clinic policy,” said Robin Stewart, lead medical assistant at West Coast Family Medical Clinic.
“We are now making virtual appointments available online, so that our patients can videoconference with their physicians from home.”
That will enable the doctors at the clinic to assess patients with communicable illnesses without putting other community members at risk, and will allow patients who are well to avoid exposure, Stewart said.
Virtual appointments require an internet connection and a computer, tablet, or smart phone.
Screening for COVID-19 is not available at the clinic. Patients who require screening after a virtual assessment will be directed to the local screening facility.
Only one case of COVID-19 has been reported on the South Island so far, Stewart said. “By taking precautions and avoiding infection, we hope to avoid widespread illness in our communities.” That includes washing hands properly, avoiding large gatherings and staying home if you are ill.
Symptoms of viral infection include cough, fever, chills, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, muscle pain, sinus pain and pressure, shortness of breath, and vomiting and diarrhea. It’s important to note that these symptoms occur with many common viral infections, and not to panic if they occur, she said. Patients exhibiting symptoms of any type of viral infection will be assessed by virtual appointment or by phone before being seen in person.
Stewart stressed the importance of staying home if you are sick, even with a cold, as an important part of keeping family, friends and colleagues safe.
“If you are unable to manage at home and feel that you must be seen in the emergency department, please call ahead. Let them know your concerns and that you need to be assessed,” she said.
That will help keep other patients safe and will protect the doctors, nurses and support staff who are working hard to respond to this outbreak, Stewart added.
West Coast Family Medical Clinic will not be open on weekends until further notice. Unattached patients will still be seen through the urgent access clinic on weekdays, but can expect to be assessed virtually as well when appropriate.
healthlinkbc.ca/health-feature/coronavirus-disease-covid-19 for more information.