How To Safely Seek Medical Attention During COVID-19

How To Safely Seek Medical Attention During COVID-19

Currently, it can be difficult to know how to go about seeing your physician for anything non-COVID-19 related. The current government mandates for how to handle symptoms of the virus have been clearly laid out. But what do you do if a pre-existing condition is worsening? Or what if you find yourself with new symptoms and need to see your family doctor or go into the emergency department of your nearest hospital? We’ve put together some guidelines and advice from several different clinics and hospitals to help guide you through your various health care needs during these difficult times. 

Should I be avoiding my doctor’s office even if I have a pre-existing condition?

According to the Canadian Medical Association, many Canadians have refrained from seeing their physicians despite pre-existing conditions. But there’s no need to do this. As they state, most clinics and doctors’ offices encourage patients to schedule a virtual visit with their physician by phone or video chat in order to assess the situation and see if an in-person consultation is needed.

Every clinic is different, and some may have different protocols. Please contact your family physician directly if you have any questions about your health or would like to find out how you can visit them during COVID-19.   

How can I see my family doctor?

Many different clinics are operating under their own unique guidelines currently, based on how they are best equipped to handle the possibility of exposure to COVID-19. In most cases, general practitioners are opting for virtual consultations before ever having a patient enter their clinic. What this means is that your family doctor will likely conduct a short virtual consultation to go over your symptoms and try to see if you need to come in or if you’ll be ok staying at home. Magenta Health, one of Toronto’s networks of family medical clinics, currently has a disclaimer as soon as you visit their website that states: 

We’re “Virtual First”. This means all visits will be first conducted entirely by phone or by video. An in-person visit will be arranged if necessary, during this virtual visit. 

Please do not visit our clinics without a pre-scheduled appointment, even just to ask questions.

In an interview with the CBC, a family physician from Women’s College Hospital, Dr. Danielle Martin, said she’s seen an “explosion” of virtual delivery of both primary and secondary care across the country, and around the globe. Thanks to an increase of over $240 million dollars in funding from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help with increasing virtual care specifically, more and more clinics are able to safely see their regular patients without putting themselves, other patients, or other health care workers at risk. 

It’s understandable to be concerned about the efficacy of such measures, but rest assured, they’re proving to be highly beneficial. The use of virtual tools to engage with patients has increased by 60% since the start of the pandemic, and is resulting in reduced duplication of tests and a more streamlined process. 

When should I go to the emergency department?

Similarly to patients avoiding their physicians’ offices during the pandemic, many people are actively avoiding seeking urgent medical help, and they shouldn’t be. However, it is imperative to go about visiting an emergency department as safely as possible.

Before deciding to go to the emergency department, or even your family physician, it’s important to check for any symptoms related to COVID-19. The Government of Canada has put together an online self-assessment tool and this self-assessment app that all Canadians can use. Make sure if you have any symptoms that you wear a mask and maintain a safe distance away from any bystanders. 

This episode of CBC’s podcast The Dose sees host Brian Goldman chat with Dr. Ken Milne, the chief of staff at South Huron Hospital in Exeter, Ontario, about why avoiding the ER out of fear is more dangerous for your health. 

The bottom line is you should not be afraid of our healthcare system. There are many precautions in place currently to safely treat you while protecting you from COVID-19. If you feel you need to see your family physician, contact their offices to find out the safest way to do so based on their protocols. If you are in need of emergency medical attention, please call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room.

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