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COVID-19 FAQs for Patients

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Updated December 1, 2022
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Given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic many patients will understandably have questions about how to access the ongoing care they need and any care needed related to COVID-19.

It’s important to access information from centralized authorities such as Public Health Ontario, the Ministry of Health, and Health Canada, which provide the most up-to-date guidance for physicians and the public.

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.

 

Accessing Care

The government has ended mask mandates — does this mean I still have to wear a mask when accessing in-person care?

As of June 11, 2022, the provincial government has formally ended mask mandates in Ontario. The Chief Medical Officer of Health strongly recommends that all patients and visitors continue to wear masks in all health care settings.

Ontario’s physicians see a variety of patients, including many high-risk individuals, throughout the course of their work. Masking up helps protect you, them and others accessing care.

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

CPSO asks patients and the public to respect and abide by individual physician offices’ masking requirements. Physicians are supported in not tolerating abusive language or behaviour towards them or their staff. Wearing masks provides an added layer of protection, particularly when physical distancing is not possible. For more information on how to properly wear, fit, remove, and clean masks and face coverings, visit the Ministry of Health’s website.

*Where can I receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

People 6 months of age and older are eligible to be vaccinated. Links to provincial or regional booking portals are available on the government website.

CPSO strongly encourages all eligible Ontarians to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot(s) as recommended by your family physician. Immunization is widely recognized as one of the most effective interventions for reducing the impact of infectious diseases.

Are doctors available to provide care?

Yes, doctors are available to provide care both in person and virtually. Reach out to your doctor and find out what care is appropriate for your needs 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. If you are having a medical emergency, you should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.

*My child is experiencing respiratory symptoms. What should I do?

Most respiratory illnesses in children (e.g., COVID-19, influenza, RSV) can be managed at home, but some cases may require medical care. The Ontario College of Family Physicians has developed helpful tips on caring for children with respiratory symptoms at home and guidance on when parents should seek medical care for their children. If you have concerns or determine your child needs to be seen by a doctor, call your family physician (if you have one) or Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) for direction on what medical care is needed.

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, and it is important to reach out for the appropriate care.

The Ontario government has put together a  of available mental health, wellness, and addiction resources, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has released information and strategies you can use to maintain your mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can I now get the non-essential, non-urgent or elective care that has been put off for the past few months? How can I be seen sooner if I need in-person care?

At different stages of the pandemic, non-essential, non-urgent, or elective care has been paused by the Ontario Government. While these services are resuming now, there is a significant backlog that physicians and hospitals are dealing with. Doctors 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.

Your doctor can help you determine when you can receive care based on your individual needs and available resources. Be sure to tell your doctor if there has been any change in your health status.

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

Physicians are now seeing patients in a manner that includes a mix of both in-person and virtual care.

In-person visits are appropriate where physical contact is necessary to provide care/services (e.g., newborn care, prenatal care, vaccine administration) and other diagnostic and therapeutic procedures (e.g., Pap smears and biopsies), or where physical assessments are necessary to make an appropriate diagnosis or treatment decision. Your physician can also accommodate you and see you in person if you do not have adequate access to virtual care and/or where it may be too challenging to communicate virtually.

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 be aware of 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 different policies have been in place at various times during the pandemic about whether caregivers or family can attend appointments with you. Speak with your doctor about your situation and whether it’s appropriate and safe to bring someone with you to your appointment.

 

Prescriptions

I need to get a prescription, but I have COVID-19 symptoms. Should I go to the pharmacy to get my medication?

No. If you have COVID-19 symptoms or are required to isolate for other reasons, it is important that you not visit the pharmacy, as this can put other patients or pharmacy professionals at risk. Call your pharmacy 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.

I’ve heard about some drugs that might be able to help treat COVID-19. How can I access these drugs?

If a drug is found to be helpful in treating COVID-19, it will be made available through appropriate channels.

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 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

Can I get tested for COVID-19?

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

If I have symptoms of COVID-19 but think it is something else, can I still get treatment?

You can call and speak with your doctor and let them know your symptoms and concerns so they can determine how to assess and treat your issues in a timely manner. Depending on your doctor’s assessment, you may be advised to get tested for COVID-19 as part of the care plan. In the meantime, it’s important to follow public health guidance to help reduce the risk of transmission. If your symptoms are severe, you should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.

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

Both Public Health and the Ministry of Health continue to provide guidance to doctors on how to safely provide care during each stage of the pandemic, which may include taking a variety of safety precautions when providing in-person care. The most up to date information can be found on the Ministry of Health's website, where guidance is provided for different sectors within the health care system.

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.