New Brunswick

Patients can now have virtual appointments with their family doctor

The provincial government is following Public Health's advice that will allow patients to book virtual appointments with their family doctor to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Consultations can take place over the phone or by video to prevent spread of COVID-19

Patients can now receive routine services like prescription renewals and follow-up health advice over the phone or by video. (Shutterstock)

The provincial government is following Public Health's advice to allow patients to book virtual appointments with their family doctor to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Effective immediately, Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said physicians in New Brunswick have been authorized to see patients virtually for routine services like prescription renewals and follow-up health advice.

"These measures will enable New Brunswickers to maintain social distance and still get the care they need," Russell said at a news conference Tuesday.

"More importantly, the measures will better enable our health-care professionals to focus on meeting the needs of the most urgent cases and minimize in-person contact in an environment where the risk of passing on infection may be high." 

Patients can receive care and advice over the phone or through a secure video-chat software.

These measures also apply to specialists, and, for mental health services, it has also been authorized for psychiatrists.

"I know people are worried about potentially spreading or catching the virus through casual contact in a healthcare setting," she said.

Dr. John Dornan, Horizon chief of staff, cited the busy clinic he was scheduled to run in St. Stephen. Instead, he conducted a 'virtual clinic' from Saint John. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

On Monday, Horizon's chief of staff Dr. John Dornan cited the busy clinic he was scheduled to run in St. Stephen. Instead, he conducted a "virtual clinic" from Saint John.

He called people, gave them their results, told them what they needed to do and arranged for appropriate follow-up, he said. "I didn't see a single person, but ran a full clinic."

What about medical clinics?

But not everyone in New Brunswick has a family doctor.

When asked if patients without a family doctor should continue to visit medical clinics, Russell said she would offer that information at Wednesday's news conference.

According to the New Brunswick Medical Society website, as of July 2018, more than  44,000 New Brunswickers were without a family doctor.

She said the regional health authorities are also responsible for clinics at this time. 

Keeping pressure off health-care system

When CBC News asked when New Brunswick will see its peak of the coronavirus, she said health-care officials are continuing to review the information. 

But that information keeps changing. 

"The whole point is to delay the peak and to flatten the curve," she said. 

"The whole point of that is to keep the pressure off the health-care system. Keep the pressure off emergency departments and keep the pressure off doctors and nurses."

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