Walk-in clinics and family doctors are still seeing patients by telephone or by video.
Lately Dr. Lakshmikanth Challa and his team at the New Pitt Meadows Medical Clinic have been seeing zero wait times at their clinic and they are concerned.
“A lot of people phoning don’t realize that the clinics are still open,” said office manager Terese Lang.
Doctors are still seeing patients, said Lang, but just in a different way.
What patients are being asked to do, said Dr. Challa, is get in touch with their family doctor or walk-in clinic and schedule an appointment.
If it is deemed necessary to have a physical examination they will be asked to schedule a time to go to the clinic.
Patients will then be asked to wait in their cars until their appointment.
Only after being screened for COVID-19, any symptoms of the virus or if they have been in touch with anyone else with COVID-19, will then be allowed into the clinic.
“There are no people waiting in the waiting rooms,” Dr. Challa emphasized, adding that they are not only working to reduce the burden on emergency rooms and working to reduce anxiety in patients, but that it is important to see your regular doctor because they have a record of your medical history.
Maple Ridge physician, Dr. Michael Stewart, has also seen an alarming drop in patient appointments.
“Although the virus is top of mind right now, people still need ongoing care and advice for acute or chronic conditions requiring treatment or medication,” said Stewart.
Last week the Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice, a nonprofit society that represents physicians in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, launched a temporary clinic where local family doctors and specialists can safely see patients in person.
The Primary Care Network Pop-up Physician Clinic offers special equipment, procedures and cleaning protocol to prevent virus transmission.
“Our medical community is one of the first in the province to have access to this type of space, which will provide our physicians and specialists with an additional option for patient care during COVID-19,” said RMDFP executive director Treena Innes.
Family physicians will continue to refer patients to specialists as needed.
Seniors living at home, those with disabilities, or who consider themselves at high risk to catch the virus are also being asked by the RMDFP to contact their doctors for advice.
“We don’t want people to get infected. We don’t want to take them out of their house or isolation unless absolutely necessary,” said Dr. Challa.
This situation could go on for months, noted Lang.
“If people aren’t addressing their regular issues that they need or are saving them up for when it is all over, it’s going to be crazy,” said Lang.
Or they will end up having to go to emergency, she added.
Doctors will return to seeing their patients face-to-face on a regular basis once social distancing measures have been lifted.