N.S. waiving extra prescription fees during COVID-19 for pharmacare clients
'This will help keep a little more money in the pockets,' says Premier Stephen McNeil
As the death toll from COVID-19 in Nova Scotia rose by two to 12 on Wednesday, the province announced it would be waiving extra pharmacy dispensing fees for pharmacare clients.
The two new deaths announced on Wednesday were from the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax.
"This doesn't get any easier. And to the families, I'm sorry to everyone with family members in Northwood, I want you to know that we are doing our best to get this virus under control," Premier Stephen McNeil said at a press conference on Wednesday.
There were 35 new COVID-19 cases identified on Tuesday in Nova Scotia, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 772. Of the new cases, 23 are at Northwood.
Extra pharmacy dispensing fees waived
McNeil said the province will waive extra pharmacy dispensing fees for those enrolled in pharmacare.
Every time someone fills a prescription, they have to pay a dispensing fee. Because of COVID-19, people can only get a 30-day supply of medication and must get refills more frequently. Each refill costs $4.49 to $12.99 in Nova Scotia.
The province also said it would waive the $5 prescription co-pay for people on income assistance and the low income pharmacare for children program.
"This will help keep a little more money in the pockets, while protecting the drug supply to ensure that during COVID, Nova Scotians can get the medications they need," McNeil said.
Strang accuses NSGEU of fear mongering
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer, accused the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union of fear mongering during the pandemic.
The province has set up an emergency plan to help respond to the outbreak at Northwood. It includes moving recovered patients off-site, bringing in additional staff and testing residents on-site.
The union put out a news release out on Wednesday expressing concern over whether there was enough personal protective equipment for hospital staff being pulled in to help at Northwood.
They also said there was no infection control, that residents are freely able to move around and that it's putting health-care workers at a risk of getting infected.
Strang said "significant help" was brought in over the weekend to help at Northwood and that while there continues to be challenges with staffing, the problem is being addressed.
Strang said he spoke to an infection control practitioner at the Nova Scotia Health Authority who is on the front lines at Northwood. He said she told him there is no validity to the concerns the union brought up.
"I challenge the NSGEU not to scare people unnecessarily. They're creating fear and anxiety where it's not necessary and it's inappropriate," Strang said.
As of Tuesday, there were 10 licensed long-term care facilities and unlicensed seniors homes with cases of COVID-19, involving 148 residents and 65 staff.
There are currently 10 people in the hospital because of COVID-19, including three in intensive care.
Nova Scotia now has 330 people who have recovered from the virus and 22,993 negative test results.
For a third day in a row, the number of recoveries has outnumbered new cases. More than 40 per cent of all confirmed cases in Nova Scotia are now listed as recovered.
The QEII Health Sciences Centre's microbiology lab, which is operating 24 hours a day, completed 849 Nova Scotia tests on Tuesday.
The province said it has conducted more COVID-19 tests per capita than any other province.
Decrease in community transmission
Strang said health officials are seeing indications of a decrease in the community transmission of COVID-19 in the province.
He said in many parts of the province, there continue to only be sporadic cases.
In the Halifax region, however, Strang said there are regions of "more robust community transmission, especially in the Dartmouth side of the harbour." But even in Dartmouth, Strang said community spread appears to be decreasing.
But there are no plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions any time soon. He said most of the population is not immune and has not been exposed, and easing restrictions now would give the virus "a foothold to come back and resurge."
Symptoms to look for
The province recently expanded the list of symptoms being screened for COVID-19. They are:
- New or worsening cough.
- Sore throat.
- Runny nose.
Anyone with two or more of those symptoms should visit 811's website for a self-assessment questionnaire to determine if 811 should be called for further assessment.
Grieving while physical distancing
Strang called for the public to show respect and solidarity in a virtual way. He said he understands people want to get together to mourn victims of last weekends shootings, but people still need to keep apart.
He said he's seen people organizing gatherings along the road and outside RCMP detachments. He said people are approaching police officers offering handshakes, hugs and food.
Strang said in normal times, these would be welcome gestures — but not in the midst of a pandemic.
"It's terrible that I have to say this, but please — we need you to not do those things," Strang said. "We will get a time in the future where we can have these more direct contacts."
Strang said people should sign Nova Scotia's virtual book of condolences.
Nova Scotia Stronger Together Fund
The premier ended the press conference by talking about families trying to make sense of the shooting tragedy in the midst of the pandemic.
McNeil said he knows a lot of people want to help, so he asked the Canadian Red Cross to manage a fund, called the Stronger Together Nova Scotia Fund, so people can make donations.
"While it's hard to imagine how we'll ever get through this, we will and we will do it together because Nova Scotia is stronger together,' he said.