With increased COVID 19 cases mounting across Manitoba, anticipated additional patient volumes with the seasonal flu and cold season and Code Red restrictions implemented province-wide, Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) set up Respiratory Clinics within the Region toward the end of 2020. With ongoing restrictions, physician medical clinics may have limited capacity to see people with a respiratory illness, so the Region wanted to avoid the potential of overburdening Emergency Departments.
Brandon was the first community to begin the targeted clinics opening in early November within the Brandon Regional Health Centre (BRHC), Nurses Residence Gym, followed soon after by the communities of Swan River, Dauphin and Neepawa. The fifth PMH Respiratory Clinic opened in Russell in early December.
Staffed by a physician —a nurse and respiratory therapist in some locations— and supported by clerical assistance, the Clinics are for patients with respiratory symptoms (that have lasted less than two weeks) such as; sore throat, runny nose, earache, cough and congestion, who feel they need to be seen by a physician, but do not require emergency care. Anyone greater than two years of age experiencing respiratory symptoms, including those who are COVID positive, can attend without a referral.
“We are set up to see acute, infectious respiratory patients, including those known to be COVID positive. We can do COVID swabs and strep throat testing. In a select few, we can order blood work and chest x-rays,” says Dr. Stacey Kitz, co-chief of BRHC Emergency Medicine.
So far, the goals and objectives are being met and the Clinics are running smoothly.
“The patients are very happy to have a place to get checked in person, as they don't pass screening criteria to be seen in walk-in, or by their own primary care provider.“
“It is also nice to be in the same facility as the ER, as occasionally there is some back and forth flow of patients, particularly if the clinic patients require a higher level of care.”
Dr. Trina Mathison, Chief Medical Officer at Dauphin Regional Health Centre, says the Dauphin Respiratory Clinic has gone through periods where it has been very busy in early December to a bit of a lull near Christmas, and back to steady into mid-January. Mathison says safety is top of mind at the Clinics.
“Staff wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Precautions such as distancing and frequent cleaning and sanitizing are in place at the clinic to limit risk. All persons entering must wear a mask,” Mathison added.
“And, for the safety of the public, ‘designated time slots’ are allocated to provide care to persons with active COVID illness,” Mathison sated.
PMH reminds the public that follow-up can be done with your doctor or health-care provider. If not requiring urgent care, you can also call Health Links at 1-888-315-9257.
Those who think they may have COVID, but have no pressing medical concerns, should visit their local COVID 19 testing site for testing.
The hours of operation and locations of designated COVID testing sites within PMH are here.
Pictured within the Dauphin Respiratory Clinic at the Dauphin Regional Health Centre are Dr. Trina Mathison, right, and Respiratory Technologist Erin Forsyth at left.
L-R: Brenda Ryan, Nursing Lead at the Respiratory Clinic in Brandon and Dr. Stacey Kitz prepare to see patients.