COVID-19 info for Albertans & Health Professionals and about Visiting Patients.

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Information for Community Physicians

novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last Reviewed: May 29, 2020

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What's New|Information for Your Zone|Changes in Health Services|Guidance for Physicians & Teams|Clinic Staff|Information to Give Patients

Information on novel coronavirus (COVID-19) specific to community specialist physicians and community primary care physicians, and their teams. Providers should also review Information for AHS Staff & Health Professionals for a comprehensive list of resources for all health professionals in Alberta.

Provincewide Advice

ConnectMD, Specialist LINK, eReferral & RAAPID

These numbers are for healthcare providers only, not the general public.

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Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 FAQs for Community Physicians
Updated: May 14, 2020

PPE Request Process for Community Physicians

Alberta Health Services will continue to supply physician offices with personal protective equipment (PPE) should you require this equipment. Please see this memo to learn more.

The following documents outline distribution processes:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Information - Information and supports to help care providers use PPE appropriately and confidently

Questions

Community physicians can email: phc@ahs.ca. This email is only for providers who have general questions about the COVID-19 response. This email is not for questions from members of the general public.

AHS Staff & Health Professionals

Healthcare Worker Self-Assessment

Daily Fit for Work Screening

What’s New

  • Updates on Cases in Alberta
  • May 28 – Update on PPE for Physician Offices: Alberta Health Services has been and will continue to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to physician and specialist offices. AHS will also continue to provide PPE to partners such as contracted continuing care facilities. For physician and specialist offices, we are moving to a cost recovery model. AHS has an ability to source the required equipment and has supply chain mechanisms in place to maintain supply and procure in bulk. More information in this update.
  • May 27 - AHS COVID-19 Update for Medical Staff: The update outlines key information and developments on the response. Note: Some resources in the update are specific to AHS.
  • May 27 - Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children: AHS is investigating one possible case of multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). The syndrome seems to develop in children and adolescents several weeks after a COVID-19 infection. We are developing clear guidelines aligned with global reporting standards, in order to support healthcare providers in diagnosing and reporting the condition to public health authorities. MIS-C is similar to an inflammatory illness known as Kawasaki Disease, and responds to treatments such as steroids. MIS-C involves inflammation of multiple organs, including the heart, kidneys, blood and nervous system. Fever is a key feature of this syndrome, and other symptoms can include rash, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The early information available suggests that the majority of children who have COVID-19 are not expected to experience this syndrome. However, the disease will be reportable in Alberta in order to monitor any possible cases and improve our understanding of this illness.
  • May 27 - Is singing a risk for transmission of COVID-19? While limited in quantity, published literature suggests that singing may generate more respiratory particles than normal talking. For more information, see the Rapid Review.
  • May 25 - MyHealth Record Secure Messaging: Sponsored by Alberta Health, MHR Secure Mail is a new voluntary service that allows community-based physicians and clinicians to securely connect with patients for virtual care and remote consultation during the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more, please visit the AHS website.

Information for Your Zone

Central Zone

Presumed/Confirmed COVID-19 Primary Care Management Pathway

Calgary Zone

COVID tele-advice, pathways, webinars and other resources for Calgary-area physicians at specialistlink.ca.

Other zonal information will be added as available.

Changes in Health Services

Staged Resumption of Diagnostic Imaging and Some Ambulatory Care

  • AHS and Covenant Health are resuming some ambulatory care and diagnostic imaging (DI) services beginning the week of May 11, 2020.
  • Decisions on which exams, procedures and appointments will proceed are being made at the zone level. Patients will be either contacted by a clinic or instructed to use online assessment tools.
  • To ensure community primary care and specialty physicians are informed, plans to reopen services including surgical and diagnostic imaging will be shared as they evolve.

Resuming Ambulatory Care

  • Since the decision to pause ambulatory care, overall activity was reduced by 60 per cent. Relaunch is expected to increase activity by approximately 20 to 40 per cent.
  • The activity will vary by area and type of service. The scope of services includes some adult and pediatric AHS and Covenant Health hospital and community-based ambulatory care services, including:
    • Visits: Specialty and sub-specialty medical, surgical, women’s health, public health, addiction and mental health, and allied health services (dental, physiotherapists, speech language pathologists, respiratory therapists, audiologists, social workers, occupational therapists, dietitians, and pharmacists)
    • Ambulatory procedures: Advanced venous access, bronchoscopy, cystoscopy, endoscopy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, women’s health (colposcopy, loop electrosurgical excision procedure, laser therapy), cardiac interventional services (catheterization lab and electrophysiology), allied health and rehabilitation services (diagnostic swallowing assessments, physiotherapy, etc.), electroconvulsive therapy
    • Tests: Electrocardiogram, echocardiography, interventional radiology, cardiac testing, sleep testing, electromyography, electroencephalogram, urodynamics
  • We have continued to do urgent ambulatory care during the pandemic, and have shifted to virtual care when available. In most cases, virtual care will continue as appropriate.
  • Physicians will be asked to review and triage patients, with the preferred assessment completed through virtual appointments.
  • For patients unable to be adequately assessed virtually, we will increase our ability to do face-to-face appointments, while following all infection prevention and control, and proper personal protective equipment procedures.

Resuming Diagnostic Imaging

  • We will be resuming some scheduled DI examinations. DI Services will resume in a staged approach:
    • Stage 1 – May
      • Patients currently waiting for urgent or semi-urgent appointments
      • New requests for urgent or planned exams
    • Stage 2 – June
      • Deferred routine (P3) requests using the original appointment date to reschedule
        Book new referrals for routine exams based on capacity
      • Use of the mobile MR will restart operations
    • Stage 3 – August
      • Ongoing efforts to revert back to pre-pandemic activity level
      • Begin implementation of a plan for CT and MRI
  • Prioritization will be given to patients requiring DI exams for scheduled surgeries or urgent ambulatory care, as well as rescheduling urgent DI exams that were deferred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • DI will coordinate exam booking in each zone, contacting Albertans currently on wait-lists in the coming days to reschedule their exams.

Resumption of Some Scheduled, Elective, Overnight and Short-stay Surgeries

  • AHS resumed some scheduled, day surgeries in all five zones beginning in May. This relaunch has been successful, with approximately 3,000 day surgeries completed between May 4 and May 22, 2020.
  • AHS is now expanding surgical capacity by resuming some overnight and short-stay surgeries. We are following a cautious and phased approach to resuming services.
  • Decisions on which surgeries proceed are based on clinical need, with those most in need and waiting longest being booked first. These decisions are being made at the zone level, and are also informed by the pandemic response in different parts of the province.
  • We are addressing the backlog as quickly as we can, and also maintaining our ability to respond to the healthcare needs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Patients will be contacted directly when it is time to receive their surgery.
  • All urgent and emergent surgeries have continued throughout the pandemic response.

Non-Essential Lab Testing

  • Alberta Precision Laboratories (APL) strongly recommends the cessation of non-essential and routine laboratory testing.
  • Patients who require bloodwork that is critical to their immediate care will continue to receive testing.
  • More information in this laboratory bulletin.

Rural Outpatient Laboratories in Acute/Urgent Care Facilities

  • Effective May 4, all rural hospital/urgent care outpatient labs will temporarily move to appointment-only service for outpatient lab work.
  • Please review the Alberta Precision Laboratories news release to learn more.

Allied Health Services

  • The Government of Alberta has announced a plan to lift some restrictions on some allied health services.
  • Dental and other regulated healthcare workers such as physiotherapists, speech language pathologists, respiratory therapists, audiologists, social workers, occupational therapists, dietitians and more can resume services as long as they follow approved guidelines set by their professional colleges.

Maternity Services Restored in Calgary Zone

  • AHS announced the restoration of all inpatient labour and delivery, NICU, postpartum and newborn care at South Health Campus effective June 3, 2020.
  • All inpatient maternal and newborn services at High River Hospital will also be reinstated effective June 3, 2020.
  • This planned service return is contingent upon the Calgary Zone maintaining a manageable caseload of COVID-19 cases.

Autopsies

  • Will only be conducted if they are COVID-19 pandemic-related, and/or the medical reason for autopsy has significant clinical impact.
  • Perinatal autopsies are not affected by this and will continue as per standard of care.
  • If a case is an essential adult/pediatric autopsy, the breadth and scope of the autopsy is left to the pathologist’s discretion to address the most relevant clinical question.
  • Please review the lab bulletin for additional details.

Guidance for Physicians & Teams

Information to Give Patients