By Jack Emberly/Special to The News
During the COVID-19 crisis, doctors are temporarily offering their patients telephone and videoconferencing appointments. But, at times, they’ll have to see someone in person.
Where can that happen safely? Who might mostly need a face-to-face visit with their physician?
Enter the Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice, a non-profit organization of doctors working with government to improve primary care and physician satisfaction.
It’s the group behind a pop-up physician clinic in Maple Ridge for local non-COVID-19-related medical issues.
“It’s a safe place,” said division executive director Treena Innes, “a COVID-19-free, family practice, stripped down and re-designed to prevent viral transmission. A professional team cleans between each patient who arrives there for medical attention from their doctor, and sometimes, the specialist.”
Jackie Amsden is the local group’s communication person.
“There’s been a drop off in doctor visits since the pandemic,” she explained.
“But people should still be seeing doctors and specialists, otherwise there may be a huge back-up of visits later.”
Folks with any medical concerns should start by contacting their GPs by telephone. They’ll consult with you to decide if you can be seen virtually, or need to be seen at the pop-up clinic.
“They (GPs) have your personal medical file,” explained Ridge Meadows division member Dr. Al Neufeld.
“That makes it easier to decide whether you need a face-to-face visit, perhaps at the pop-up clinic.”
What medical conditions could result in that course of action?
“People with complex health concerns such as diabetes,” said Neufeld. “COPD, kidney and heart disease, and mental illness benefit from ongoing care. Patients with combinations of these conditions are at greater risk if not monitored regularly. Obviously, lacerations, and dressing changes are difficult to deal with over the phone. PAP tests and breast exams require in-person visits.”
The list goes on, and will change with time.
An older relative of mine, for example, wonders if her medication is working properly or should be changed.
She’s in lock down. That’s good, but the question needs an answer sooner than later. A delay could be fatal. “Call your doctor,” I insisted.
“Some GPs,” said Innes, “may have supplies and still see people in their offices.”
What about the specialist you were scheduled to see for a procedure of some kind?
Maybe you’re due for a follow-up appointment.
A friend of mine told me a time-sensitive procedure was suddenly postponed last month, (different health region) a scary thing to find out.
Worse yet, if “the office message box is full.” This sort of thing can happen as hospital beds, medical staff, and PPE are set aside for an ex pected surge in virus victims.
Still, some life-altering conditions don’t seem to fit into the “electives” (cancelled) category, and shouldn’t be, if alternate ways can be found to address them safely.
The pop-up clinic is available to specialists too, explained Innes. Some, however, might need special equipment that isn’t available there.
Innes said, “because the pop-up clinic just opened, we don’t know how well it’s working for them, and haven’t had the feedback yet.”
Division program leaders are also looking at the needs of various demographic groups in the community, currently, “on care supports for homeless/shelter individuals, and patients with mental health and substance use issues. We’ve had conversations with local specialty clinics with plans to identify other populations that need to be addressed, such as seniors,” Innes said.
Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice has another message for us, too.
Can’t do it alone…
It’s collecting donations of emergency supplies.
“There is a worldwide shortage of medical grade PPE and supplies,” said a letter by division members Dr. Imran Ansari and Stacy Burton, addressed to local businesses and government partners.
“This crisis is unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime,” the letter said.
“We are working flat out to be there for our patients… but we cannot do this alone. We need your help thinking creatively about supply options.”
The list includes N95 masks, respirators, gloves, hand sanitizing materials, isolation gowns, cleaning materials, and any kind of eyewear that fully encloses the wearer’s eyes, including ski goggles.
“You may know a business that has a distribution channel they can access, or even create at their own warehouse,” Burton and Ansari suggest.
Division of Family Practice is a ground roots, non-profit organization that saw a need to improve medical service delivery in B.C. several years ago.
This proactive initiative prove will surely benefit a lot of local people now. Innes said the pop-up in Maple Ridge is the first of its kind, “but other areas are looking at it.”
Finally, we will hear a lot more about the work of other organizations that have been working to strengthen our community without a lot of attention.
That will change as we enter a new world that requires we work together for the common good and our own survival.
If you can help the Division of Family Practice today, contact them at email@example.com and stay healthy.
– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author, and environmentalist
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