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COVID-19 FAQs for Patients

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Updated June 2021

COVID-19 has, understandably, caused many patients to wonder what to expect from their doctors. Many patients are anxious about how to best protect themselves, their loved ones, and access the ongoing care they need and any care needed related to COVID-19.

It’s important that patients access information from centralized authorities such as Public Health Ontario, the Ministry of Health, and Health Canada. If you’re experiencing difficulty coping during this time, whether it is due to stress, isolation, grief, or other reasons, you can find a list of resources published by the Ministry of Health.

It’s important to remain diligent in our efforts to protect each other while we work together to prevent the spread of the virus.

 

Accessing Care

Where can I receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

CPSO strongly encourages all eligible Ontarians to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Immunization is widely recognized as one of the most effective interventions for reducing the impact of infectious diseases.

People 12 years of age and older are eligible to book a vaccination and can find links to provincial or regional booking portals on the government website. Ontario is also accelerating the eligibility for receiving a second dose and has laid out a schedule for the coming months.

Are doctors available to provide care?

Yes, doctors are available to provide care both virtually and in-person. Doctors should now be seeing patients in a manner that includes a mix of both in-person and virtual care Reach out to your doctor and find out what care you need and the best way you can receive it.

If you do not have a doctor or you are unable to see your regular doctor, Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) is a free, confidential service you can call to get health advice or information and determine your options. For non-urgent issues, options such as the Ontario Virtual Care Clinic are available or you can also search for walk-in clinics near you. If you are having a medical emergency, you should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.

I’m experiencing mental health\addictions issues as a result of the pandemic where can I reach out for support?

We recognize that during this challenging time many Ontarians are facing mental health and addiction issues. Mental health is health and like any health care concern you should reach out for the appropriate care.

The Ontario government has put together a Resource Sheet detailing a list of public options to access and The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has released strategies to maintain your mental wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide information and suggestions about how best to cope in this difficult time.

How can I now get the non-essential, non-urgent or elective care that has been put off for the past few months?

At stages of the pandemic, non-essential, non-urgent or elective care has been paused by the Ontario Government. While decreasing pressures in Ontario’s ICUs are allowing for more services to be available, there is a significant backlog that physicians and hospitals are dealing with. Reach out to your doctor to discuss your needs and to figure out when you can expect to receive care. Your doctor is in the best position to determine when and how you can access care based on individual need and available resources.

Keep in mind that you may still experience delays. Health care providers are attempting to address a backlog and there are many precautions doctors must take to ensure they can provide care to patients safely.

The wait time to get an in-person appointment is long. How can I be seen sooner?

There may be many reasons why there is a long wait for in-person appointments. Doctors are attempting to address a backlog from early in the pandemic and are prioritizing care that has been deferred based on need, capacity, and other resources. There are also extra precautions in place to make sure everyone is safe, which may mean fewer patients can be seen in a day. You may wish to speak with your doctor to figure out if there are aspects of your care that are suited for a virtual visit. Be sure to tell your doctor if there has been any change in your health status. Your doctor can help you determine when you can receive care based on your needs and availability.

What are my options for virtual and in-person care?

Most physicians should now be seeing patients in a manner that includes a mix of both in-person and virtual care.

Where physical contact is necessary to provide care (e.g., newborn care, prenatal care) or where physical assessments are necessary to make an appropriate diagnosis or treatment decision (e.g., infections conditions, post-operative care, chronic disease management), your physician should accommodate to see you in person.

If you are concerned about receiving care virtually, including concerns about your ability to use or access technology, let your doctor know. It’s important for your doctor to know about your concerns or limitations.

Can I accompany someone or bring someone else to an in-person doctor’s appointment?

Caregivers play an essential role in helping patients during appointments. The pandemic has created new risks for everyone when in-person care is delivered, so deciding whether to attend with someone or have someone attend with you will require a bit of care and thoughtfulness to avoid unnecessary exposure or risk of transmission. Speak with your doctor about your situation and whether it’s appropriate and safe to bring someone with you to your appointment.

 

Screening, Monitoring, and Self-Isolation

Why am I repeatedly being asked the same screening questions?

It is necessary to ask screening questions at the point-of-care each time for the safety of everyone involved, including yourself, health care providers, and other patients.

While it may be frustrating to answer the same questions repeatedly, it’s extremely important for everyone to answer the screening questions honestly to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Will I still be able to be treated if I answer yes to some of the screening questions?

Sharing that you’ve recently travelled or have been in contact with someone known to have COVID-19, will not mean you will be denied care or treatment. It just means that the way care is provided to you will be different to help ensure that you and everyone else involved are protected from exposure to COVID-19. It’s extremely important for everyone to answer the screening questions honestly for the safety of everyone involved, including yourself, health care providers, and other patients. If you’re an essential worker that travels outside of Canada as part of your work, let your health care providers know this so they can determine the best way to help you get access to health care while you work.

What should I do if I’ve recently returned from a trip outside Canada or if I think I’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19?

It is important to self-isolate after travelling, even without symptoms, as it is possible to transmit COVID-19 before you start showing symptoms or without developing symptoms. For more information on how to self-isolate and things you can do while in quarantine, visit the Health Canada website. If you are caring for or living with someone who is self-isolating, guidance is also available on the Public Health Ontario website.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been in contact with someone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19, then you must isolate. For information on how to isolate at home when you may have COVID-19, visit the Health Canada or Public Health Ontario websites.

If you have questions about whether you should get tested for COVID-19, the province’s self-assessment tool can help you determine whether you should visit an assessment centre to get tested for COVID-19 or contact Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000).

 

Prescriptions

I need to get a prescription – but I think I have COVID-19 symptoms, or I was exposed to someone with COVID-19. Should I go to the pharmacy to get my medication?

No. Call your pharmacy first so they can help you find the best way to get your medication. This might mean having your doctor fax or call in your prescription to your choice of pharmacy and then coordinate with the pharmacy for a delivery or to have a family member, friend, etc. pick-up the prescription on your behalf. If you have COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 it’s essential that you isolate, and not visit the pharmacy, as this can put other patients or pharmacy professionals at risk.

I’ve heard about some drugs that might be able to help treat COVID-19. Should I ask my doctor for these drugs?

There are currently no proven treatments for COVID-19 aside from vaccination.

Be careful about relying on information about COVID-19 treatments from unknown or non-medical sources or information heard through word of mouth, as this can be false or misleading. It is important to follow recommendations from public health authorities and to follow the medical advice from your doctor. Using unproven treatments may expose you to harm and lead to drug shortages for patients who need the drugs for their intended use. If a drug is found to be helpful in treating COVID-19 it will be made available through appropriate channels. If you have COVID-19 and have questions about how to manage your health, speak to your doctor or call Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-000).

 

Prevention and Treatment

Where do I go to get tested for COVID-19? Why is my doctor sending me somewhere else to get tested? 

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing), going to your physician’s office may expose others and put them at risk. Do not show up to your doctor’s office unannounced. Call ahead to see if it is appropriate to go to their office, go elsewhere, or see your doctor virtually.

Testing guidelines are changing as the province’s response to the pandemic shifts. This means there are different rules about who should get tested and where. For the most up to date guidance go to the Government of Ontario’s COVID-19 website.

Completing the province’s self-assessment tool will also help you and your physician understand where you should be seen and whether you should be tested.

Once you’ve been tested, there is also an online portal where you can review the results quickly at the comfort of your own home.

If you need additional help making a decision about where to go, call your doctor or  Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000), or contact your local public health unit .

What safety precautions do doctors have in place to help keep me and others safe?  

If you are visiting your doctor in person, they should be taking several safety precautions, including screening patients for COVID-19 before seeing them, wearing masks and having staff and other patients wear masks, limiting in-person visits, scheduling patients to minimize the number of patients in a waiting room, enforcing physical distancing, and ensuring proper hygiene and sanitization. If your needs can be addressed through virtual care, your doctor should let you know that is an option available to you. If you have questions or concerns about the specific precautions your doctor is taking to help keep you and others safe, you can contact them for more information.

My doctor is asking me to bring and wear a mask to my appointment. Do I have to?

Yes, you should wear a mask whenever you a going to an indoor setting.

Wearing masks provides an added layer of protection, particularly when physical distancing is not possible. It is important to follow public health advice and any provincial directives or local by-laws which mandate masks indoors to help prevent the spread of the virus.

You can buy masks from physical and online locations and there are resources online for how to make your own.

If you have a health condition that makes it difficult to wear a mask, explain this to your doctor or their staff in advance so they understand why you are not able to wear one, and can discuss what accommodations or options are available for you to ensure that you can safely receive the care you need.

For more information on how to properly wear, fit, remove and clean masks and face coverings, visit the Ministry of Health’s website. Remember that a mask is just one tool in a bucket of tools to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. You should still be limiting outings, avoiding close contact with others, and practicing good hand hygiene.

Can my doctor charge me for a mask or a fee for accessing care in-person?

No, your doctor should not be charging you for a mask or a fee for accessing care in-person. The Ministry of Health has confirmed that infection prevention and control products or practices, including masks provided to patients, are part of the insured services physicians provide and so cannot be charged for.