A new designated assessment clinic (DAC) has opened at the Recreation Centre in Ormstown. The CISSSMO announced on Sunday that such clinics have been opened in the Haut-Saint-Laurent, Jardins-Rousillon, Suroît, and Vaudreuil-Soulanges health regions, with the mandate to treat individuals with flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis or COVID-19 symptoms who require a primary medical consultation. All four clinics are accessible by appointment only.
Different measures have been put in place to limit the spread of the virus, including designated corridors, dedicated rooms, and appointment times.
“Services will be centralized in the designated assessment clinics,” says Dr. Élise Gilbert, the director of professional services and medical education for the CISSSMO. This will allow for health services to be offered in a single location that permits a more comprehensive response to patients’ needs. “We want to screen and prioritize patients at risk of being hospitalized or developing complications related to COVID-19,” explains Gilbert.
It is important to note that the Ormstown DAC is not a COVID-19 testing facility, and that the Barrie Memorial Hospital is not equipped to handle patients with the virus. In fact, at this time, only the Charles-Lemoyne and Pierre-Boucher Hospitals in Longueuil are designated to receive COVID-19 patients for hospitalization in the Montérégie.
Close to 100 DACs have been opened across the province in accordance with changes to the testing protocol for COVID-19 announced by the provincial health ministry on April 3. The government has determined that community transmission of the virus is now taking place throughout the province, and as such it has become difficult to continue with the current measures for virus screening and testing. For this reason, the prioritization of those who will be tested has been revised and will now focus on those most at risk of being hospitalized or developing complications as a result of being infected, as well as those who occupy strategic positions in the fight against the virus in Quebec. This approach will help doctors to make better clinical decisions and will provide a more representative portrait of the situation as it plays out across our health and social services network.
Essentially, there is no reason to test healthy individuals presenting with symptoms, as the result of the test would have no bearing on the outcome. As most people who test positive will not be severely affected by the coronavirus, and as there is no treatment for the virus alone, such patients will be asked to self-quarantine for two weeks at home. Anyone with flu-like symptoms, fever, cough or difficulty breathing is asked to call 1-877-644-4545 and from there it will be decided if an appointment at the clinic is necessary.
The fact the new clinic has been established in Ormstown should not be regarded as a sign there is any need to panic, but “a good dose of worry is still our best protection,” says Dr. Catherine Bélanger, the medical director for the new clinic in Ormstown. “The [DAC] clinics are very important because without them there would be a gap in care,” she says, noting that the clinics are now the designated centres for those experiencing any kind of COVID-19-related symptom, and that a symptomatic person would likely be denied access to care if they were to go to any other type of health service location, such as an emergency room or medical centre now screening for virus symptoms. “This way everyone is protected and there is full care across the spectrum.”
For non-urgent and non-virus-related symptoms, “we are really encouraging people to call their regular medical clinic,” says Bélanger. The Ormstown and Huntingdon Medical Centres are both taking phone calls from any individual, regardless of whether they are registered with a family doctor or not. Doctors are continuing to provide services and are treating patients through telemedicine. “It’s working very well. We can solve a lot of problems over the phone,” says Bélanger, who notes the medical centres are only seeing patients in person if a doctor feels it is absolutely necessary. “The clinics have to stay cold- and virus-free,” she says, noting this practice is also being re-evaluated every week and it may come to a point when they are forced to close the medical centres to all patients.
In the case of the new DAC in Ormstown, the mayor of the municipality, Jacques Lapierre, and his team, were “instrumental in getting the clinic up and running,” Bélanger says appreciatively. She is also quick to note that from her observations, the people in the Valley are doing a really good job in adapting to the government measures. The population needs to continue to stay home whenever possible, practise social distancing when out, wash their hands, and know “that doctors are there for them.”