A number of physicians in Cowichan have organized themselves to respond to the COVID-19 crisis as it evolves, and to provide the public with accurate and timely information.
The physicians, members of the Cowichan Valley Division of Family Practice and the Cowichan District Medical Society, aim to provide information and direction so members of the public understand their own responsibilities as members of the community and the greater population during the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19.
“The province’s team of public health specialists, the medical health officers, are working hard to support family physicians to have the information that is needed to respond to this pandemic,” the physicians said in a press release.
“We want to send out a clear message to you about how local family-doctor health care is changing and explain how you can help our community fare as best it can through what will be a difficult time.”
They said they know that coronavirus is in several communities on Vancouver Island and, as a result, they need everyone to take measures to prevent transmission.
“Even people with very mild symptoms may pass on this virus, and it doesn’t serve anyone to think it’s not in my community and won’t affect me,” the physicians said.
The doctors said their plan to avoid a catastrophe is to ensure everyone knows that social distancing is important, and this applies to everyone.
“Social distancing is currently seen as the main way to limit the spread of COVID-19,” the physicians said.
“It requires you and everyone else to aggressively limit unnecessary direct contact you have with other people. This includes avoiding groups, crowded places and places with more than 50 people where social distancing can’t be maintained. This means avoiding direct contact such as hand shaking and hugging, and maintaining a distance of at least two metres between you and others.”
The physicians said people will notice changes when they contact their family doctor’s office.
“We want to make sure that doctors — and other primary-care providers including midwives and nurse practitioners — and their teams stay healthy so that they can continue to look after you,” they said.
“To delay the spread of COVID-19, we are reducing face-to-face contacts. In many cases this will mean using phone calls and online assessments and follow ups. All physicians are able to provide effective care in this way and will ensure the patient is brought to the office for an examination when needed. By cutting down on the number of face-to-face visits, we are also using social distancing by minimizing the number of patients in the waiting room.”
For patients who have stable chronic disease, the physicians said they may encourage them to consider delaying any non-urgent lab work to decrease their need to go to the laboratory.
The physicians said they may lengthen prescription supplies to lower their patients’ need to go the drug store.
“If you become unwell or your disease becomes unstable then you should contact your clinic,” the physicians said.
“Do not drop in to your doctor’s office. You may well be turned away. It is best to call ahead, or make contact first through other channels such as email or through online portals as they become available. A reminder to employers that it’s time to stop asking your employees for sick notes for self-limiting illness, including those who develop a mild form of coronavirus. In many cases doctors will refuse to offer them.”
They said that while testing is available for all who need it, not everyone needs to be screened, even if they have symptoms.
“If you develop symptoms, call your family doctor and you can often be managed at home,” they said.
“You can also use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment tool which you can complete for yourself, or on behalf of someone else if they are unable, to https://COVID19.thrive.health/ . Those who should be tested for COVID-19 are those with respiratory symptoms who are hospitalized or likely to be hospitalized, health-care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, and those who are part of an investigation of a cluster or outbreak.”
The physicians said self-isolation is a critical step that people must take to limit the spread of infection in the community.
They said that if you develop a cough, congestion, or fever, you must self isolate until symptoms resolve.
“If you are unsure, in the current situation, we ask that you assume that you have contracted the COVID-19 infection and self isolate,” the physicians said.
“This is no reason to panic and immediately seek medical attention. A positive test does not change the treatment of a COVID-19 infection. Most infected people will only develop a mild respiratory infection and will recover within two weeks. If you become more unwell, then this is the time to contact your family doctor. If you are unclear, then please do contact your family doctor.”
The physicians said people should not to go to the hospital’s emergency room for testing, and that they should only go to the emergency room if they are experiencing a medical emergency.
They said steps are underway to ensure the hospital is able to deal with the COVID-19 situation as it changes.
“This includes postponement of elective surgeries and detailed plans to ensure they are ready to manage the forthcoming challenge,” the physicians said. “Also, consider modifying risk-taking activities. Maybe mountain bike a bit less aggressively, take more care driving and anything that reduces trips to the emergency room. ”
The physicians said life for all of us is going to be different and at times very difficult through this year and possibly beyond. They asked that people should ensure they get time away from worrying about COVID-19 and, for example, spend time alone or with those close to them away from others in the outdoors.
“Most of us will be fine through this difficult time, more of us will be fine if we stick together and act responsibly,” the physicians said.
“Take the time to eat healthily, exercise, and find new ways to relax. You can find some tips and techniques for relaxation through the ‘Coronavirus Sanity Guide’. This page is accessible to anyone for free from the Ten Percent Happier website: www.tenpercent.com/coronavirussanityguide.”
The physicians said that with no known cure or vaccine for COVID-19, preventing transmission is absolutely critical at this stage.
“There have been patients in their 30s in Italy, previously fit and well, who are currently being ventilated,” the physicians said.
“When a hospital is overwhelmed, even a minor car accident could have serious consequences because of the high demand for hospital care. Please consider checking in on your vulnerable, isolated neighbours and see that they have all they need. Always use social distancing, including keeping two metres from others, isolating if unwell and frequent hand washing.”
The physicians said that this is also a time to think of the broader community and many community organizations will find themselves in need.
They asked that people consider connecting with Social Planning Cowichan to see how they might be able to help, or if your organization is in need.
“Go to the BC Centre for Disease Control website for the most up to date information and protocols.”