Prince Rupert and area residents can avoid lengthy waits at the ER for non-urgent issues by using the new virtual care clinic online or on the phone, Northern Health Authority reminded patients, on Dec. 9. (Black Press Media file photo)

Prince Rupert and area residents can avoid lengthy waits at the ER for non-urgent issues by using the new virtual care clinic online or on the phone, Northern Health Authority reminded patients, on Dec. 9. (Black Press Media file photo)

Virtual care clinic will shorten lengthy waits at Prince Rupert ER

If you’re going to an emergency room for a non-urgent reason, you are going to wait — Eryn Collins, NH

A new virtual health care clinic launched by Northern Health will assist patients in avoiding lengthy emergency room (ER) waits for non-urgent matters, Northern Health reminded the Prince Rupert community, on Dec. 9.

Lengthy waits are “no big secret,” Eryn Collins, communications manager for Northern Health, said.

“On occasion, we do issue reminders to communities that there are other options besides an emergency room, especially for non-urgent care … So, if you’re going to an emergency room for a non-urgent reason, you are going to wait,” she said.

In November, the health authority issued public notices the emergency room in Prince Rupert was experiencing higher than normal patient volumes. This is due to a combination of factors Collins said, especially with issues people may not see, for example, weather-related injuries, COVID-19 issues or staffing issues.

The Northern Health Virtual Primary and Community Care Clinic provides services by phone or through a video call. The clinic works in tandem with your family doctor, nurse practitioner, and health care team to complement the care you receive in your community or provide support for those who don’t have a family doctor, Northern Health stated on its website.

The virtual clinic provides culturally safe care to patients who need medical help after hours and wish to speak to a health care team member by phone or video.

The service is a way for Northern Health to support accessibility to health care outside of the ER, Ciro Panessa, chief operating officer for Northern Health Northwest Division, said introducing the service at a recent Prince Rupert City council meeting.

The clinic is to assist those who are wondering if they truly need to go to the ER or cannot connect with their family physician, he said.

“This is an initiative that has come out of the COVID pandemic, where we initially created a COVID line, and it has evolved down into a virtual clinic. We have a virtual primary care clinic and that’s open seven days a week,” Panessa said.

Originally set up as the COVID-19 Online Clinic, the name and purpose have changed, but the phone number remains the same, 1-844-645-7811. The virtual clinic continues to provide COVID-19 assessments for those experiencing symptoms and is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, including weekend and statutory holidays.

“We want people to be aware that there are other options and to consider those right from 811 to waiting and making an appointment with your family physician if you have one,” Collins said.

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K-J Millar | Journalist
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