Emergency mini-clinic to be deployed on P.E.I. ahead of expected rise in COVID-19 cases

P.E.I.'s chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced the deployment of an emergency mini-clinic on the Island, in anticipation of an expected rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.

There are still three cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. There have been almost 500 tests conducted on the Island, with about 250 results still pending. 

Morrison said an emergency clinic will be opened to increase the province's testing capacity. It is one of four in Canada. 

She said the clinic will function like an outpatient clinic and will divert patients away from acute care.

The emergency clinic was provided through the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile, which contains supplies provinces and territories can request.

This is not over. And I cannot say when it will be, but what we're doing today will influence tomorrow. — Dr. Heather Morrison

The stockpile has $300 million of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals to respond to emergencies and can be deployed anywhere in the country, usually within 24 hours of a request from a province or a territory, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

In the coming weeks, Morrison said the province hopes to have all testing done on P.E.I. so that only positive tests would be sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg for confirmation.

Self-isolation, social distancing

Self-isolation enforcement officers on P.E.I. are following up with those in self-isolation to ensure they are staying on their property when going outside to get fresh air. 

Morrison reminded Islanders they should stay home and practise social distancing as much as possible. 

"You can walk with your family, but don't have people over for a dinner party," she said. 

She also encouraged Islanders to work from home where possible, including lawyers and accountants.

She said the province is working to update its list of essential and non-essential services to be clear on the distinctions and to keep in line with what other provinces are doing. She said the province hopes to have the list available by the end of Wednesday.

"We need to rely on each other and reach out to each other, for those who are in self-isolation because it is a very challenging time," Morrison said. 

She noted that for those who returned from out of country and have completed the mandated period of self-isolation, they are still required to practise social distancing. 

Government of Canada

Guidance and advice

Morrison said the province is working on obtaining guidance and advice from other provinces on how to manage complex situations, including families who co-parent and those who may be experiencing homelessness. 

"This is not over and I cannot say when it will be, but what we're doing today will influence tomorrow. And not just tomorrow but the next day, and the next week" Morrison said.

In addition, she said Islanders who need to access medical care outside of the province should only travel to where the medical appointment is located and maintain social distancing. 

She said people coming back from off-Island medical appointments are not required to self-isolate upon their return but must continue to practise social distancing. 

Ilustration by Isabelle Plamondon/Radio-Canada

Medical equipment

Chief of nursing Marion Dowling said Health PEI is continuing to work to obtain additional medical supplies and equipment to treat COVID-19 patients. 

"We have a dedicated team on this every single day," she said. 

Dowling said the Island's health-care system has enough supplies to meet the current demand, "but we're planning for what the future need may be." 

Maintaining the health and safety of our staff, physicians and patients continues to be a priority. — Marion Dowling, Health PEI

She also said an order for 12 more ventilators has been confirmed and is expected to arrive by late spring. This is in addition to the 15 ordered through the federal government. 

"The same suppliers we look to for equipment are often working with many other health agencies," she said.

Dowling noted that Health PEI's joint response team is monitoring the use of supplies and personal protective equipment being used by essential health-care workers to conserve supplies and make sure those workers can provide service safely.

"Maintaining the health and safety of our staff, physicians and patients continues to be a priority."

Dowling said Health PEI has purchased additional reusable gowns for patients, which are being used at the Prince County Hospital, reducing the need to access the supply of disposable gowns.

Submitted by Trevor Jain

She reminded people that emergency care is available to those who need it. People should call 911 or go to emergency departments if they are in need of urgent medical care.

For people who are looking to access other health-care services, Dowling said there are now options to have appointments by telephone. 

"This may be the preferred option for some patients, such as seniors or those with compromised immune systems who are most importantly needing to protect themselves," she said.  

Additional planning is underway to make virtual appointments available, she said. 

She said Health PEI continues to see a good response from retired health-care workers and volunteers, as well as some from the private sector who are looking to offer their assistance in COVID-19 efforts.

Home care, Unit 9

Dowling said the decision to defer and cancel services like home care was made based on what could be deferred safely. She did not know the number of Islanders affected by the cancellation of home care, but said some home-care services are being changed to telephone or virtual services.

She noted that Unit 9, which is used to offer care to those suffering from addictions and mental-health issues, has been moved to allow capacity for COVID-19 patients. Those services are still available to people who need them.

Morrison said her office has received emails and phone calls from employees who are concerned they aren't being offered sufficient protective equipment or social distancing isn't being practised in the workplace.  

She said her office is in the process of following up on those calls with employers, while keeping employees anonymous.

If employers or employees have questions or concerns relating to protective measures, Morrison said they can reach out to the province. 

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.