As you will be aware, British Columbia has begun a phased plan to slowly open up again, with businesses and services working in new ways compared to how they worked before the arrival of COVID.
This is only possible because we have all followed the instructions of Dr. Bonnie Henry, in particular physical distancing, hand washing and staying at home as much as possible.
COVID has not gone away, but the risk of one of us catching COVID and of COVID overwhelming healthcare has reduced.
It is very important that we go through these next steps cautiously and safely, so that the risk of overwhelming healthcare and the risk of you catching COVID do not both increase dramatically. It is important that you continue to follow the measures that Dr. Henry advises; it is through all of our behaviour that we will prevent COVID cases rising again.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will start provision of a slowly increasing amount of in-person healthcare in family practice clinics, and provide some of the routine healthcare suspended at the beginning of this pandemic, such as screening, through a stepwise plan.
This plan will only progress as long as the risk of COVID to all of us remains low through your sensible actions.
In the first instance, we will continue to see patients virtually, via video or on the telephone.
Where we deem it necessary, not just for urgent conditions or conditions we couldn’t diagnose without doing a physical examination, but for some examinations needed for chronic diseases or some screening for example—face to face care will slowly start to occur in our own clinics.
The reasons we will not see everyone in-person are as follows:
• We have to continue to reduce COVID risk in our offices through physical distancing, which will reduce the amount of people we can have in our office at any one time.
• The risk of COVID has not gone away—consequently, our Health Authority require us to wear PPE (masks and eye protection) during all in-person encounters. PPE remains in short supply worldwide—therefore we have to be economical with its usage.
• We have to clean our exam rooms frequently and thoroughly to ensure you are not at risk of catching COVID from your visit- this will reduce the number of people we can see in our office each day.
• We know that virtual care is safe and effective in a number of conditions and welcomed by a number of our patients as more convenient.
We want to reassure you that safe care will continue to occur, and that you will be seen in-person if it is clinically necessary. This does not mean that everyone can be seen back in the office, but over time we anticipate seeing more of you in the office as long as COVID cases do not rise.
Please remember our office is open and providing care, though please do not turn up in-person unless it is pre-arranged. We can be contacted in the usual ways that your clinic enables access.
Dr. Adam Thompson is the COVID-19 Physician Lead Comox Valley Division of Family Practice