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Saskatchewan doctors adapt to new normal amid novel coronavirus pandemic

Saskatchewan doctors adapt amid pandemic
WATCH: Some Saskatchewan doctors are taking appointments over the phone amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Saskatchewan hunkers down amid a pandemic-induced state of emergency, doctors are adapting their practices to provide quality care in unprecedented circumstances.

Dr. Sara Dungavell has been working from home as COVID-19 cases continue to pop up across the province, taking all of her appointments over the phone.

Since the Saskatoon-based psychiatrist normally runs a mobile clinic, she said she’d be a prime candidate for unknowingly spreading the novel coronavirus, should she contract it.

Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan declares state of emergency
Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan declares state of emergency

“We still want to take care of you and get good medical care to you. We’re just going to have to do it by phones,” Dungavell told Global News.

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She said losing the ability to read her patients’ body language is tough, but says it’s worth it if it means she won’t have to quarantine in the future.

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“Two weeks of loss of care is not manageable for the health care system,” she said.

“We don’t have enough psychiatrists [during] regular times to meet the needs. We can’t afford our psychiatrists going off, and it’s the same with other specialties.”
Dr. Sara Dungavell
Dr. Sara Dungavell and many other doctors are taking appointments over the phone amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Global News

Dungavell said phone appointments have proven effective so far, but she feels an alternative option should be made available for people who don’t have a phone, computer, or strong internet connection.

She’s not sure how long this could go on for but said doctors are committed to maintaining quality care no matter the circumstances.

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READ MORE: Saskatchewan COVID-19 cases double to 16 in province

“While we’d appreciate it if the public has our backs and does good social distancing … so that we don’t have to face this tsunami of illness and so that we can keep ourselves alive too, we’re going to be there and we’re going to do the best that we can,” she said.

As of late, most of Dr. Carla Holinaty’s appointments have been by phone, but she has seen a select few patients in person.

“Some people aren’t safe to manage by phone and we’re going to need to still see them in the clinic and keep them healthy and safe even during the pandemic,” she said, noting some patients may be unstable or in need of a physical exam.

“Just because there’s a pandemic, it doesn’t mean that everybody else’s health concerns suddenly disappear.”

The family physician works at West Winds Primary Health Centre in west Saskatoon, which has made major changes to mitigate risk for patients and health care professionals.

The waiting room has been restructured to accommodate for social distancing, while patients with concerning symptoms are asked to wait in the car, Holinaty said.

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READ MORE: Saskatchewan doctors providing virtual appointments amid novel coronavirus concerns

“We’re trying our very, very best to limit the number of cases to as few as possible, so we can protect our health care workers and so that we can make sure that our system continues running,” she said.

“We can deal with sick people. But we need to be able to deal with them fewer at a time over a longer period of time than having a huge tsunami of sick people hit our emergency rooms and hospitals all at once.”