The Associated Medical Clinic in Lac La Biche has noticed some changes in patient numbers because of COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, there was always a steady stream of patients coming and going through the walk-in clinic. With nine doctors, all able to see upwards of 40 to 50 patients in a day, it’s been a real change of pace for the clinic with around 200 total patients on a daily basis.
Randi Lameman, a nurse who has worked at the Associated Medical Clinic since 2011, has never seen such a significant drop in patients at the clinic before.
“With around 200 patients a day, depending on how many doctors are in, it’s extremely low from what we are used to,” said Lameman.
“A lot of our patients now are also using the option to call in for their appointments instead of physically coming into the clinic, so it’s been a lot quieter since COVID-19, that’s for sure. We’re seeing a slow increase of patients as now there are less restrictions, but at the beginning of the pandemic, we had almost no one coming into the clinic.”
When the virus was first making its way into Alberta, and social distancing requirements were put in place, Lameman saw a big change in the amount of patients willing to make their way into the walk-in clinic. The small number of patients at the time, also forced them to change their hours.
“As a nurse, we sometimes only saw maybe five people in a day,” said Lameman.
“I think people were definitely nervous to come in and I don’t think they wanted to come in, which is very understandable. We had the afternoons off on Tuesdays and Fridays because there were not as many patients booking appointments to fill all the time slots.”
Since more patients are starting to make their way into the clinic again, the Associated Medical Clinic’s hours are now back to normal. However, there are still protocols the staff and patients need to follow to keep everyone safe.
“We clean up after every patient, if somebody was in one of the rooms we clean everything before our next patient goes in. We are always sanitizing, we all wear masks, we are always using hand sanitizer and we are constantly having to clean chairs and surfaces.”
Along with masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing, there is now a mandatory screening process, which involves a questionnaire, for all patients to check for potential COVID-19 symptoms.
“Anyone that’s calling in, or coming into the clinic, needs to be very patient with us,” said Lameman.
“We are screening more, and there are more questions to be asked, so there has been some people who’ve been frustrated with this new process because it is longer, but it’s something we need to do to keep everyone safe.”
The clinic will also start taking patients temperature’s to make sure no one is running a fever before entering the clinic. If a patient has passed the screening process, they are asked to not come into the clinic with any family members or children and that they come alone.
“We just ask for people to cooperate with us, and the processes we have in place,” said Lameman.
“And if anyone does have any symptoms to call 811 right away.”
Health Link 811 is for people who are needing any health advice, and it is the recommended number to call for COVID-19 screening.