P.E.I. family doctors picking up extra duties to help with COVID-19 pandemic

General practitioners are being asked to help out as the Island's medical system deals with COVID-19.

'Everyone has stepped up in the family medicine community'

Family physicians on P.E.I. are helping to provide services at cough and fever clinics. (David Donnelly/CBC)

P.E.I. family doctors are putting in extra time doing extra shifts to help out in hospitals and clinics.

General practitioners are being asked to help out as the Island's medical system deals with COVID-19.

"Like other professionals we have had to adapt quickly to this new reality during the COVID pandemic," says Dr. Kristy Newson, who practices at the Boardwalk Medical Centre and is the president of the P.E.I. College of Family Physicians.

Family physicians are providing services at cough and fever clinics as well.

"Everyone has stepped up in the family medicine community," Newson said.

"The cough and fever clinics are one area where we need two physicians per shift."

Shifts are run between 8 a.m. and noon and from noon to 4 p.m. she said.

We all stepped up so it hasn't been overwhelming.- Dr. Kristy Newson

"For unaffiliated patients who may not have a family doctor we've been asked to help out at the walk-in clinics to make sure those patients can also be seen," she said.

At the hospital family physicians are helping out in the acute stroke ward and the rehab centre, Newson said.

"We all have stepped up so it hasn't been overwhelming at all."

Still seeing patients

Newson said though family physicians are helping out in other areas their focus remains the same.

"We want to be available for our patients when they need us," she said.

However, those who have scheduled appointments or need to see their family doctor may be doing that differently as well.

"What we have been doing in my clinic has been triaging patients over the phone with the help of my staff," Newson said.

Patients are asked if they have any symptoms related to COVID-19 and if they do they are directed to call 811. If the patient has a fever or respiratory illness they are referred to a cough and fever clinic, Newson said.

"Other patients that just have other medical needs, we either see them here at the office or if it can be done over the phone. We have been doing many phone consultations," she said.

"More minor conditions or management of chronic illnesses can be managed over the phone and if they need any prescription we either fax or phone into the pharmacy so that we can avoid coming into the clinic at all if possible."

In person appointments?

When patients have no other choice but to go into the clinic they call from their cars, then the clinic makes sure a room is available for the person. Then the clinic calls the person back and tells them to come inside when the room is ready, Newson said.

"We've only been seeing one patient at a time in our office, so that's been really helpful, then of course cleaning everything down between each patient," she said.

However, Newson said there hasn't been a lot of patients calling.

We can do a lot over the phone- Dr. Kristy Newson

"I don't know if they don't want to bother us or they're not sure if they should come in. So we want to make sure that patients know that they can come and seek medical attention when they need it," Newson said.

"We don't have to wait until this is all over. We can do a lot over the phone."

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 COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning


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