Dr. Dec’s COVID-19 UPDATE Information & Direction
Last updated: April 5, 2021
I know it has been a long year, following the local & global events of the COVID-19 Pandemic. These again are unprecedented times and I want to assure you that our office will continue to try its best to service you in the best possible way over the long term, as long as this outbreak lasts. For now, we all continue to be well, and we are in the office for our usual office hours to handle things like questions, medical complaints, prescriptions renewals & other medical needs.
It has been close to 13 months now that we have been tackling the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have moved back and forth between lockdowns, self-isolating and staying at home, to stages and “colours” where we can socially distance with more people in “bubbles” depending on the orders from the Provincial Government. The local, provincial, federal and global situation still continues to change if not daily, then at least weekly. The Niagara Region’s cases have fluctuated, no doubt impacted by the GTA traffic, and hospitalizations from COVID-19 have been manageable. Several of you have become infected, many of you have been tested and some of you have already been vaccinated. Our office has been trying its best, to maintain services for you. We do prioritize our in-office appointments, as we continue to monitor pregnant patients and update infant/child immunizations. COVID-19 has changed the way we handle patients with more telephone and virtual/video encounters, although we still have needed to see some of you in person, as we are adapting to the new normal environment as per the Ministry of Health and College of Physicians and Surgeons guidelines. Despite this change, your first point of contact should still be with our office if you have medical concerns. We have been maintaining basic regular office hours from 9-5 with Wednesdays 9-12 and Fridays 9-4.
When you come for an appointment, we ask that you bring and wear a mask.
Once again, please follow these instructions:
Please DO NOT show up at the office without calling first. The accepted approach in the middle of the pandemic at this point in time, is to ensure safe, direct patient contact. We are accepting calls, triaging complaints and then deciding on who can be managed over the phone, as that is still the recommended approach, if it is appropriate. When you call, you will be asked screening questions. Then, if you have an in-person appointment, you will also be screened on-site by our nurses before entering the office.
If you are unable to get through at (905) 356-2228 because call volumes are high, then feel free to communicate with us by either FAX (905) 356-8161 or by e-mail at email@example.com and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Please follow the public health recommendations:
1. If you have any symptoms of upper respiratory illness, please quarantine yourself, away from others to avoid spreading what you have, which is likely another virus. We will likely advise you to get tested for COVID-19, even if you have minor symptoms.
2. If you have any classic symptoms of COVID-19, specifically new or worsening cough, fever of > 38.0°C or shortness of breath, please call in to speak to us. Or if you have other unusual symptoms (for example: loss of smell/taste or diarrhea) you can take any of the self-assessment surveys listed in the links below. If your condition is serious, please proceed to the Emergency Department.
3. There are 3 COVID-19 Testing Centres in Niagara, one at south part of GNGH beside the Emergency Department, one in Welland & one in St. Catharines, & you now do NOT need a doctor’s referral to get tested but there are no walk-in appointments & you have to call to arrange an appointment. The number is (905) 378-4647 ext. 42819. The recommendations for testing are if you are symptomatic as above, or have been in contact with a + COVID-19 case or have been in contact with a person suspected of being positive. Random testing of asymptomatic patients “just so you know” is not recommended.
4. If you have specific questions regarding COVID-19, you may call the Public Health Hotline directly @ (905) 688-8248 ext. 7019.
Other good resources are:
Information is changing rapidly regarding COVID-19 Vaccination. The Province of Ontario released a province-wide booking system on March 15, 2021. Niagara Region Public Health Department started mass vaccination clinics a few weeks ago, starting with those people 80 years old and older and has moved through 2 other age groups, 75-79 & 70-74 and will soon be moving to the 65-70 group & eventually the 60-65 group. The specific site locations of clinics have rotated around the region & are listed on their website (see above & below). In addition, there is an ongoing clinic in St. Catharines at the Seymour-Hannah 4-pad arena, run by Niagara Health. When the clinics are in Niagara Falls, they are located at the McBain Centre. Some people were contacted by our office over the past few weeks, to be offered a vaccination appointment, when we were given short notice that there were available spots at the Seymour-Hannah 4-pad arena, and we tried to facilitate filling them. There have been some glitches with the province-wide booking system, so if you are having trouble, be persistent and keep trying! You can book on-line by going to the Niagara Region website or calling the provincial hotline. I am Chair of the Niagara Community Coordination Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccination which is following Ontario’s Vaccine Distribution Implementation Plan and is using principles set out in the Ethical Framework for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution.
These 2 documents set out a basic prioritization for people to get vaccinated and may be influenced by unique local/regional factors. This prioritization has initially been age-dependent regardless of any underlying conditions, and recognizes that the most significant risk factor for COVID-19 hospitalization and death is age. Prioritizing by any other factor is just hard to do, however younger patients with specific chronic conditions which put them more at risk, are covered in Phase 2 of the distribution plan, and will likely get scheduled in some way, as clinics continue to get added and the people put in the cue. Up until now, the Niagara Region has mainly received the Pfizer vaccine and small amounts of the Moderna vaccine. However, we anticipate that Pharmacies in Niagara, as well as some Family Doctors offices will soon be getting a shipment of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. This vaccine is presently recommended for those aged 55 an over, and in almost 100% effective against hospitalization and death. Our office may get a small limited amount of Astra-Zeneca vaccine in the coming weeks and we will plan to look at those people who are 55+ and have not yet received a vaccine, likely those who are housebound or have bad underlying health problems which put them at higher risk. Please do not call us asking about this, if you are eligible, we will connect you as soon as we have more details. If you wish a vaccine and can get a spot at a pharmacy, please take it. The BEST vaccine is the one you can get as soon as possible, because this virus is spreading fast and if you decide to wait, you are at risk of infection. My recommendation is that you get vaccinated. I have done so, my staff has done so, my eligible family members have done so. I would not recommend anything to you that I would not do myself. If you have any concerns on anything vaccine related, we can point you to good resources or I can speak to you briefly to answer questions.
Thank you for your patience as we navigate the challenges of vaccine coordination/distribution.
For additional information, I invite you to go to the Niagara Region
As soon as additional information is available, it should be posted at the above locations and I will try to keep my own website current and up-to-date.
I know everyone continues to be concerned about the future and how long COVID-19 will last, how it will impact all of us from a health and economic standpoint, and how quickly we can start to get back to somewhat of a normal life, or at least whatever the “new” normal will be. The provincial government is guiding everyone, so we are following their direction. I think the best advice is to still take things a few weeks at a time and see how things develop. Much of this we cannot change but we can all do our part, so please follow instructions, use common sense and stay safe. Stay well.
Dr. David Dec & Staff