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What Doctors Want Nova Scotians to Know About Health Care During COVID-19

With the onset of COVID-19 and physical distancing protocols, many people are wondering what to expect from their primary care providers.Don’t put your health on the back burner. If you’ve been delaying or cancelling appointments, you may be putting your health at risk.

Most family practices are still open
Whether your clinic offers telephone or video visits depends on the clinic and the physician. It’s important to call your doctor’s office ahead of any scheduled appointment to confirm that you can still come in or to receive instructions for virtual care instead.

If you’re not comfortable going to a clinic in person, ask the clinic about their protocols:

“I’m aware that check-ups and prescriptions are now being offered virtually or by phone. What is the protocol for this clinic? Is this a possibility or are all appointments still in person?”

If a doctor chooses to close their practice, they must give notice to patients. The notice should tell you where can go for urgent care and how to receive your medical records.

Your doctor is still filling prescriptions
To prevent medication shortages during the pandemic, pharmacists may only dispense a 30-day supply of each prescription at a time. This is to ensure that there will be enough supply to continue meeting everyone’s needs.

In addition, Health Canada has issued temporary exemptions for prescriptions of controlled substances under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These changes allow pharmacists to extend, renew or transfer prescriptions that have previously been authorized by a doctor, as well as extend or refill medications by verbal request from prescribers (including over the phone).

If you’re concerned about your medication, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Some changes have been made

There’s no doubt that our health-care system could become quickly overwhelmed if we see an increase in COVID-19 cases. In order to support the the possibility of increased demand, the Nova Scotia Health Authority has postponed all elective surgeries until further notice. This includes hip and knee replacements as well as cosmetic surgeries.

Urgent and emergency surgeries will still proceed, as will dialysis, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, mental health and addictions appointments, cancer care imaging, PET scans, and other time-sensitive scans.

Doctors are here for you
Doctors are still seeing patients in person and they’re also encouraging virtual care appointments. For example, if you’re waiting on blood test results, your doctor may contact you by phone. If you suffer from migraines, your physician can offer a prescription without an in-person visit.

Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang encourages Nova Scotians not to let their health-care needs go unattended. Reach out to your provider or 811 for advice. If you have an emergency, call 911.

Most walk-in clinics are still open
Most walk-in clinics are still operating; however, some have reduced hours or closed temporarily. Check your local clinic’s hours before venturing out.

When entering a walk-in clinic, it’s important to maintain physical distancing of two metres between other patients and staff. In fact, clinic waiting rooms have begun to limit the number of patients allowed at one time. You may be asked to wait before entering the clinic or to leave the clinic after registering if an exam room is unavailable.

Use handwashing and sanitizer stations if they’re available.

While registering, you’ll be asked COVID-19 screening questions. This is to ensure staff and patient safety.

Masks are not mandatory in walk-in clinics, but Dr. Strang notes that wearing non-medical grade masks can help prevent the spread of the virus in public places.

Virtual care is available
Virtual care is a powerful tool in Nova Scotia’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Many of the province’s 2,400 doctors are making the move to virtual appointments. These phone consultations and video visits allow providers and patients to connect safely, reducing the risk of community spread. Virtual appointments let you to connect with your doctor from home on your own device.

There are many other benefits of virtual care, including:
• Improved quality of care
• Stronger patient engagement
• Convenience and comfort

If you are unsure of whether virtual care will work for your specific needs, contact your health-care provider.

The bottom line is: don’t put your health care on hold during the pandemic. Doctors are here for you and will continue to deliver care safely, both in person and virtually.