Manitoba announced two new cases today, bringing our total to 275. Only 49 of these cases are still considered active, with five in hospital and none in ICU. You can view today’s public health bulletin for more details.
Shared Health reported that Winnipeg ER and urgent care visits were down 11% in March, and likely more in April. This mirrors reports from physicians across all settings who reported an average 55% drop in visits in a recent Doctors Manitoba survey. Our “Don’t Put Your Health on Hold” campaign is designed to address this troubling decrease in patients seeking care, helping to remind the public to call their doctor, or for emergency situations to call 911 or visit an ER. Your patients can learn more at CallYourDoctor.ca and you can help get the message out using the resources we’ve made for physicians.
Yesterday, the provincial government presented the plan to reopen services and businesses while continuing to keep COVID-19 at bay. Many physicians have raised questions about what this means for their practice, especially as they see restaurant patios and other health providers like dentists and physiotherapists reopening as early as this Monday.
First, Dr. Brent Roussin has stressed that the reopening plan does not mark a return to normal; it is a gradual reopening that requires careful monitoring. The request to stay home as much as possible is still in place at this time. This includes limiting travel, even within Manitoba, to essential trips only. Visits to cottages are not recommended at this time as services at smaller rural health centres could be strained if seasonal visitors become ill. Groups are limited to 10 or less.
What does this mean for physicians?
For community practices, this could require further adaptations to how you offer care:
- Continue to offer as much patient care as possible through virtual visits as PPE continues to be in short supply and social distancing rules remain.
- Visits not suitable for virtual care should be considered for in-person visits using appropriate precautions. This includes “healthy patient” visits
- All patient should be pre-screened for respiratory symptoms before attending in person. Patients with even mild symptoms should be referred for testing.
- Continue social distancing in your waiting room and stringent cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
We understand Shared Health will be issuing further guidance in the next day or so for outpatient settings, and we will be updating our resources to help guide your practice through this next phase.
For surgeons and radiologists, the province has reported that surgeries and diagnostics will resume, including elective procedures and tests. If you have not already received information for your specialty area, contact your medical director. Patients are being rescheduled, but we understand some prioritization is occurring to ensure patients with life-threatening issues receive care first, including cancer and cardiac procedures. We also anticipate that procedures may take longer with the extra equipment and cleaning requirements. Doctors Manitoba is closely monitoring this situation, and we invite you to contact us with your concerns as health services resume over the next few weeks.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) may become even more scarce as more other health providers like dentists and chiropractors resume services and other businesses reopen their doors. The provincial requirements and supply of PPE has been ever-changing and unpredictable. We continue to press for clarity and reliability, but we know this continues to be a serious concern and a gap for physicians in hospital and community practice. We are maintaining current information on our PPE resource page. We continue to maintain a list of suppliers from whom you can order PPE if Shared Health fails to deliver, as well as a limited stock in our office for physicians in immediate need. Please contact us for PPE assistance.
Virtual Visits continue to be available to help minimize the need for PPE by shifting in-person patient encounters to phone and video. Please remember that we are still waiting for new tariff codes from Manitoba Health for the expanded virtual visits agreed to on Saturday. Do not submit billing using existing in-person codes. Please hold your claims and submit once the new tariff codes are confirmed.
As we heard earlier this week, testing is ramping up in Manitoba and has been opened up to anyone who is symptomatic, regardless of travel history or other risk flags such as working in health care. Anyone with even minor symptoms should be tested to help monitor the movement of the virus in Manitoba as services and businesses slowly reopen.
Physicians can continue to refer patients to testing sites if they have any of the listed symptoms. No call-ahead or referral forms are needed.
Patients will soon be able to access negative test results via an online portal, while positive results will receive a phone call. Physicians can continue to access patient test results and contact patients with negative results as appropriate.
For physicians with symptoms, you can now attend a testing site without the need for a referral from occupational health. Simply attend and identify yourself as a health care worker with appropriate identification.
A new drive-thru community testing site will open Friday in Swan River, at the Manitoba Public Insurance facility, 125 Fourth Ave. North. Hours of operation will be daily from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can view all of the testing site locations in Manitoba online.
A reminder to please register for our AGM, coming up next Friday, May 8, at 5PM. The teleconference and online options will allow you to fully participate in a socially distanced manner. This is a great opportunity to stay connected to Doctors Manitoba and stay up-to-date with our efforts to advocate for you, especially during COVID-19.