Ontario is urging its physicians to resume in-person appointments, saying the need for a “virtual care first approach” has diminished as COVID-19 cases decline and vaccination numbers increase.
In an open letter, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Ministry of Health and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said they have been hearing about offices that are not allowing in-person care.
“While virtual care has enabled access to care during the pandemic, given broad vaccination coverage and fully accessible PPE, COVID-19 should no longer pose a barrier to in-person practice,” the letter read.
There are limits to what virtual care can provide and “standard of care” is difficult to obtain, the letter continued.
“In-person care is essential for certain conditions and services or where physical assessments are necessary to make an appropriate diagnosis or treatment decision. There are many patients for whom the standard of care cannot be met in a solely virtual care environment.”
It is expected that physicians now provide in-person care “based on clinical needs and patient preference.”
However, the Ontario Medical Association said the letter “paints a broad and unfair characterization of workforce under enormous stress.”
“Virtual care will continue to play a critical role as we reopen safely and create a new normal,” the OMA said in a statement. “Both patients and doctors have found virtual care to be beneficial during these last 19 months.”
Doctors are responding to changes in the pandemic as quickly as they can, the OMA said, noting that up until a few weeks ago the province’s science table was predicting the fourth wave would continue.
Doctors still have to work under strict hygiene and infection control protocols while trying to deal with higher demands due to a backlog from the pandemic and are suffering from burnout, the OMA said.
As of 8 p.m. on Wednesday, 28,756 vaccines (10,346 for a first shot and 18,410 for a second shot) were administered in the last day.
There are more than 10.7 million people fully immunized with two doses, which is 82.6 per cent of the eligible (12 and older) population. First dose coverage stands at 87.2 per cent.
—With files from The Canadian Press
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