Some non-essential health-care providers reopen under P.E.I.'s ease-back plan

As the province launched the first phase of its ease-back plan on Friday, a number of Island health-care providers are reopening their doors with a new sense of caution. 

'We're happy to be back'

'Some of the procedures, we're 20 centimetres away, so that's a new fact of life,' says Dr. Kelly Bowse of now having to wear a mask when seeing patients. (Submitted by Dr.Kelly Bowes & Associates)

As the province launched the first phase of its ease-back plan on Friday, a number of Island health-care providers are reopening their doors with a new sense of caution. 

Physiotherapists, optometrists and chiropractors are just some of the operators included in Phase 1 of the province's plan. 

While some providers reopened Friday, many held off until Monday. With new health guidelines, providers are prepared to operate differently than they used to.

Under the new health directives, physiotherapists, optometrists and chiropractors will have to limit the number of patients they see, causing some clinics to see a a drop of appointments by about 30 per cent.

Changing how patients, providers interact

The new measure has been put in place to maintain physical distancing and keep workspaces clean. 

The limit to the number of patients isn't the only new measure being introduced in Phase 1 — changes are also being made to how providers work with patients. 

The biggest change is trying to limit the patient-to-patient interactions.— Mark MacKenzie, P.E.I. Physiotherapy Association

"We are definitely suggesting some procedures be altered in the way that might be delivered to make sure that we're reducing risk of any transmission," said Dr. David Whitty, a chiropractor with Body Works Clinic in Charlottetown. 

"There's certain types of adjustments where instead of having someone lay on their back to have them done, we have them lay on their stomach on the table. So it's more altering the way that you would do procedures." 

Some clinics are also closing off waiting rooms, others are limiting the number of people allowed inside the clinic at the same time, and some clinics are asking people to wait in their car before their appointment.

Personal protective equipment

Some providers, like chiropractors and optometrists, will also be wearing protective equipment when treating patients.

Physiotherapists aren't required to wear personal protective equipment, but they are being asked to limit patient-to-patient interactions.

Mark MacKenzie is the president of the P.E.I. Physiotherapy Association. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Under the province's new guidelines, if providers are not exposed to blood, secretions or excretions, they are not currently mandated to wear protective equipment like masks.

"We're just asking clinicians to try and limit the amount of time that you are sort of within that two metres with any given client. But again the biggest change is trying to limit the patient-to-patient interactions," said Mark MacKenzie president of the P.E.I. Physiotherapy Association.

Behind the mask, a smile is still there.— Dr. Kelly Bowse, Optometrist 

"I think the biggest overall for Phase 1 anyway and possibly moving forward would be the total volume that a clinic could see in a given day. What clinicians are being asked to do at the moment is only see one client at a time," MacKenzie said.

Wearing a mask while caring for patients will be an adjustment but a necessary one, said Dr. Kelly Bowes, an optometrist in Summerside.

"Some of the procedures, we're 20 centimetres away, so that's a new fact of life, but we're just happy to be back," she said. 

"The process may be different from the last experience you had with us, but behind the mask, a smile is still there."

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Isabella Zavarise


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