PEI

Here's what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms and need to seek medical care

As COVID-19 restrictions on Prince Edward Island are slowly eased and the province's schools reopen, officials are prepared for an uptick in COVID-19 cases and those presenting with symptoms.

There is a 'misconception' that health-care workers want to avoid COVID-19 patients, says Dr. Jason Chan

The Charlottetown Cough & Fever clinic was created two years ago as a COVID-19 response measure. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC News)

As COVID-19 restrictions on Prince Edward Island are slowly eased and the province's schools reopen, officials are prepared for an uptick in COVID-19 cases and those presenting with symptoms.

But where do you seek treatment? Do you see your family doctor or head to one of the province's cough and fever clinics in Charlottetown or Summerside?

Dr. Jason Chan, lead physician at Charlottetown's Cough & Fever Clinic, says it depends on the severity of your symptoms. 

The first step is to consult with your family doctor or nurse practitioner, or 811. They'll assess you and determine whether help can be offered over the phone or if you need a referral to a cough and fever clinic.

"If your symptoms are more severe, like any other medical illness, if you feel like you cannot wait the one to two days for an appointment here, or if you're having trouble breathing or if you're having trouble keeping fluids down, or for example if you have a high fever that won't break — it's probably time to go to the emergency department," Chan said.

But those with less severe symptoms can seek treatment at a cough and fever clinic. The clinics aim to treat patients with any suspected respiratory infection, which could mean the chest, nose, throat or sinuses.

"Upon receipt of a referral, one of our staff will contact you for an appointment," Chan said. "Appointment times usually range from one to two days."

Contingency plans in place

The Charlottetown clinic was created two years ago as a COVID-19 response measure.

"A bunch of doctors got together and basically asked the question: how do we provide care for our patients, while keeping all our staff safe from potential coronavirus exposure? It didn't take much thought to create this extra clinic space," Chan said.

Since 2020, the clinic has seen more than 10,000 patients. On a daily basis, the clinic sees about 20 people.

"If there's a huge demand, we do have contingency plans to call in an extra doctor or nurse practitioner to handle the volume," he said.

Dr. Jason Chan encourages COVID-19 positive Islanders to book an appointment for the clinic, if they feel uncomfortable. (Jessica Doria Brown/CBC News)

'We're still seeing patients'

Chan said there is a "misconception" that health-care workers want to avoid COVID-19 patients.

"When patients have COVID, there's this belief that the health-care system doesn't want to see you," he said.

"I don't think that that's accurate at all. We're still seeing patients. A lot of clinics in the community do have the ability to see patients who are COVID positive."

Chan encourages COVID-19 positive individuals to call the clinic if they are feeling uncomfortable. 

"If you had a cold or sore throat and you didn't feel comfortable being at home, [that's] stuff that you would normally see a family doctor," he said. 

"If you have COVID to a similar degree, that would be the time to make a call to one of our clinics here."

Cough and fever clinics operate in Charlottetown and Summerside several days a week.

With files from Jessica Doria-Brown

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