Guelph FHT urges residents to not let pandemic stop them from seeking medical attention

May 27, 2020

Guelph Today News article published May 23, 2020

By Anam Khan

Executive director Ross Kirkconnell of the Guelph Family Health Team said the health system has always been there for residents and the pandemic is no different

The Guelph Family Health Team has a message for those holding themselves back from seeking medical attention during the pandemic. Don’t.

“We want to remind people that family practice is available, has been available and always will be available. So don’t put things off that you shouldn’t be,” said Guelph Family Health Team’s executive director Ross Kirkconnell. 

He said he’s recently been hearing stories of people not visiting their doctors while enduring pain because they believe the health system is busy. 

“No. If you have symptoms you should be getting it checked like you normally would,” said Kirkconnell.

Once the pandemic was declared mid-March, the clinics across the city immediately saw a decrease in the number of visits to their clinics across the city.

“People were reluctant at first to sort of bother the health care system. Everyone was cautious about going anywhere,” said Kirkconnell.

Now that it has been almost two months, he said the clinics are beginning to see more calls from patients who do not want to wait any longer but still are not at the number of visits they used to be before the pandemic. 

“Some people can get by with their friends and family for support but at some point, you need care again and we shouldn’t feel bad about that,” said Kirkconnell.

He said things like vaccines for new babies, chronic pain and necessary checkups should not be put off.  

Kirkconnell said the system has always been open and now with the pandemic, the clinics are just operating differently.

The team’s 100 medical professionals manage roughly 80 per cent of their 3,000 daily appointments through phone and video. People who need access to urgent care are seen in-person on an appointment basis. 

Dr. Will Ruddock at the Guelph Family Health Team said switching to online methods is a two-sided effort as doctors have to make those services accessible and patients have to feel comfortable with the process. 

“Anecdotally I would say that has really been increasing gradually over the last couple of weeks as everybody gets more comfortable with this," said Ruddock. 

He said he urges people to contact their family doctors regarding their concerns so they can be dealt with accordingly. 

"In a year or five, having gotten started with this, everybody might have more interest in some of their care being done this way," said Ruddock.

With distancing measures, increased sanitation and use of masks already in place, Kirkconnell said many of their clinics are even allowing patients to wait in their car till they are called inside for their appointment to further enhance comfort and safety for the patient. 

“If you need to see a physician or a member of the care team, they are available for you. If you need to go to emergency at the hospital, it’s there for you. Just because its a pandemic doesn’t mean other things stop,” said Kirkconnell. 

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