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N.B. implementing COVID-19 assessment centres to reduce ER visits

Assessment or screening centres for COVID-19 are available across the province by appointment-only. Callum Smith / Global News

New Brunswick’s two health authorities are implementing assessment centres or screening clinics to test for COVID-19.

The sites are being set up across the province, and will be by appointment-only. That means you will need to be referred by a Tele-Care nurse (by phone, calling 811) or a family physician.

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Horizon Health Network said that if you are experiencing symptoms, which include a high fever, a cough, and difficulty breathing, you can call 811. Otherwise, if you don’t have symptoms, public health officials are asking you to visit the provincial government website.

The health authority said in press release that “Community Assessment Centres will help to reduce visits to emergency departments and minimize the risk of transmission.”

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You can speak with a nurse by calling Tele-Care at 811. Callum Smith / Global News

Their assessment centres are located in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Miramichi, and a site will be open soon in Upper River Valley.

At the daily COVID-19 update held by New Brunswick public health officials Monday, Dr. Nicole LeBlanc, Vitalité Health Network’s regional chief of staff, said their first screening centre (serving the same purpose as assessment centres) opened in Moncton Friday.

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She said starting Tuesday, additional centres will be set up in Edmundston, Grand Falls, Campbellton, Bathurst and Tracadie-Sheila. But she said as needs increase, so will the number of screening centres.

“If we want the system to work, and to reduce transmission, we need to follow instructions,” she said through a government translator.

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Premier Blaine Higgs said 811 typically receives 200 calls per day, but that number has skyrocketed to about 1,000 calls per day amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“That’s over the last five days we’ve seen that sort of volume,” he said.

“These aren’t calls from people that are experiencing symptoms,” he said. “These are calls from people wanting information.”

Higgs said the Tele-Care system’s capacity has been doubled, but it’s also being updated to help direct people, and sort calls by priority.