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The walk-in clinic at 100 Marie Curie. Photo: Parker Townes/The Fulcrum

Health Services is also temporarily waiving fees for missed appointments, prescription renewals

Starting Monday, the University of Ottawa Health Services is shifting all family medicine appointments to telephone calls for the next week or so amid growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in the city, according to an online update from medical director Dr. Danielle Gervais.

“Please be prepared to receive a phone call from your medical doctor or nurse practitioner,” Gervais wrote in her update, posted this weekend. “They will do their best to address your issues including prescription renewals, referrals, lab test requisitions, etc. Your provider may determine during the telephone visit that an in-person visit is required and will book that appointment during the call.”

According to Gervais’ message, all allied health appointments (mental health counsellor, dietician and pharmacist) will also be converted to telephone visits until further notice, with the exception of appointments with the chiropodist. Appointments with specialists will continue, unless patients are advised otherwise. 

Health Services is also temporarily waiving fees for missed appointments and prescription renewals. 

At the walk-in clinic, patients are asked to call ahead to book same-day appointments. People who go to the walk-in clinic in person will be given an appointment time later in the day and asked to return. 

“This is being done to reduce the amount of time that you have to spend in the clinic and therefore reduce the spread of illness,” wrote Gervais.

Health Services is also asking patients to reschedule their appointments for later in the year if they are not urgent. Patients who have a cough, fever or difficulty breathing must call the clinic before coming in.

Upon arrival to the clinic, Gervais says patients will be questioned when they arrive and given a surgical mask if needed. At the clinic, Gervais is urging people to stay two metres away from others and to not touch any surfaces.

Health Services introduced a new medical note protocol earlier this week, where students can request a medical note for a short-term illness (less than 72 hours) proving they are or were unable to meet an academic requirement from walk-in clinic reception staff without needing to see a doctor or nurse practitioner.

The new process looks to cut down on the administrative strain to clinical resources, reduce exposure of students to contagious illnesses in clinic space, and save the clinic’s capacity for those who need to see a medical professional for advice or treatment.

On Friday, the U of O administration cancelled classes this Monday and Tuesday and said it will shift all in-person classes and labs online on Wednesday. The campus remains open, including all residences, food services, libraries and “other facilities and services.”

U of O president Jacques Frémont said exams will not be taken in person and plans are being developed for the exam period, with more information to come. Clinical and co-op placements will continue without change unless students are otherwise notified. 

All university-related travel by U of O students and staff is prohibited until further notice, while faculty travel is “strongly discouraged.” 

As of Sunday, there are still no confirmed cases of the virus in the U of O community, but there are 10 positive cases in the city. Ottawa’s chief medical officer of health is urging people to limit non-essential trips out of the home and to maintain a one- to two-metre distance from others.

Across the province, there are at least 137 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday, with five labelled as resolved. There have been at least 249 confirmed cases of the virus in Canada

COVID-19 has infected more than 156,000 people and killed over 5,800 globally since emerging in China in December 2019. 

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