Thursday, February 25, 2021

CKHA reminds residents to access primary care for non-urgent issues

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) is reminding residents to contact their primary care physician or nurse practitioner for non-urgent needs, many of whom are continuing to offer virtual care, and in-person visits as-needed.

“Emergency Departments and Ambulance Services are for life or limb threatening symptoms,” stated Dr. Dax Biondi, chief and program medical director of emergency medicine, in a media release.

“To name a few, people with chest pain, new or worse shortness of breath, stroke-like symptoms or bad accidents should go to Emergency. But, I encourage the public to first contact their family doctor or specialist for all non-emergency symptoms. New symptoms do not necessarily mean there is an emergency. Consider calling your family doctor or nurse practitioner to see what they think. Many of their offices are open for business. If you are not sure, the Emergency Department is here for you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Hospital officials say it is important to note that while family doctors and nurse practitioners are now permitted to see more patients in person, a combination of virtual care and some in-person visits remains the current norm.

Primary care providers must look to make sure adequate personal protective equipment is available for office staff as well as ensuring their office space is able to accommodate patients without raising concerns about physical distancing and infection control needs.

However, primary care providers remain the important first door for patients outside of emergencies, hospital officials added.

Patients without a primary care provider can sign up with Health Care Connect – a provincial program that refers people without a regular family health care provider to physicians and nurse practitioners who are accepting new patients in their community, CKHA officials say.

Click here to register online or register by phone at: 1-800-445-1822, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other options include calling Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) for medical advice 24/7, or visiting for a list of local walk-in clinics.

Non-urgent medical issues which can be addressed through primary care:

– Urinary tract Infection (UTI)

– Ingrown toenail

– Prescription fills

– Earache or ear infection

– Minor burns

– Pink eye

– Cough/colds/sore throat

When to visit the Emergency Department:

– Chest pain (or tightness in the chest)

– Difficulty breathing (when doing very little or resting)

– Continuous vomiting (or severe diarrhea or signs of dehydration)

– Sudden severe headache/weakness (vision problems, numbness/tingling, dizziness, trouble speaking)

– New confusion (and disorientation)

– Stiff neck (and sensitivity to light)

– A broken bone (sprain or wound that needs stitches)

– Seizures (or convulsions)

– Infant under 3 months with fever over 38C or 100.4F (or has a fever and is difficult to wake)

– Children age 2 to 17 with difficulty breathing, fever/stiff neck, dehydration, ingested a toxic substance

Hospital officials say if you require emergent care, please do not hesitate to call 9-1-1 or visit the Emergency Department at CKHA’s Chatham and Wallaceburg sites.

Medical professionals are there to care for you, just as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, CKHA officials say.

CKHA continues to implement enhanced safety measures and infection control protocols to ensure a safe care environment for all patients and staff.

If you believe you are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19, patients can self-refer to CKHA’s COVID-19 Assessment Centre located at 47 Emma Street in Chatham, open 7 days per week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (please note the last appointment occurs at 4:20 p.m.).

Patients are encouraged to book an appointment online at

Additionally, CKHA knows that patients, who in March, were told that their surgeries and other appointments needed to be postponed are anxious to have them rescheduled, hospital officials say.

CKHA asks that you do not call the hospital, but rather wait to hear directly from your surgeon’s office as they will be looking at their cases and prioritizing who can be scheduled first.

For local hospitals, as stated previously, this will be a gradual and incremental restoration of more elective surgeries which will take many weeks, especially when you consider the volume of procedures that need to be rescheduled and the need for pre-operative care that has been on hold, CKHA officials say.

A framework designed by the government outlined conditions for resuming scheduled surgeries and procedures such as the adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, adequate supplies of drugs for surgeries, the ability to take activity down quickly should there be a re-emergence of multiple cases of COVID-19 positive patients, evaluation, and use of different approaches to care, and the potential for having patients and their care team travel for care.

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