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London, Ont. and Hamilton hospitals partner to provide virtual urgent care

Children's Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre is among the three partners backing the virtual pilot project. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

A new partnership between hospitals in London, Ont., and Hamilton aims to make seeking urgent care easier for those who wish to stay at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, and Hamilton Health Sciences have teamed up to provide virtual urgent care for adults, children and youth in southwestern Ontario, as well as for long-term care residents in Hamilton and Niagara North West.

Read more: Toronto hospitals encouraged by early stages of virtual ER programs introduced during COVID-19

The pilot project is being carried out through the new website UrgentCareOntario.ca and over the phone at 1-844-CARE-844 (1-844-227-3844).

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A goal of the program is to increase access to care for patients living outside of the partnering hospitals’ communities.

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St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton will focus on serving adult patients; Children’s Hospital will provide virtual urgent care for children and youth; and Hamilton Health Sciences Centre will provide virtual acute care consultations for long-term care residents in Hamilton and Niagara North West.

Those seeking urgent care for adults, children and youth are advised to use the website or phone number. Both have 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. listed as their daily hours of operation. From there, users will be redirected to an appropriate hospital provider and provided with information on how to arrange an appointment.

Health care providers for long-term care residents are also asked to use the same website or phone number, however daily hours of operation are stretched from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with holidays included, for this option.

Read more: Virtual emergency rooms bridge gap between health-care professionals, patients amid pandemic

Officials say the virtual program is not intended to replace in-person visits to emergency departments, but rather provide another avenue to reach out for help with urgent care needs.

Virtual appointments arranged through the program will see doctors assess patients and determine next steps, which may include offering a diagnosis or prescribing treatment. Doctors can also prescribe new medications during the appointment, but they won’t be able to provide a regular refill of an already prescribed medication.

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“As the second COVID-19 wave continues across the province, we understand families are concerned about coming to the hospital, or would like advice over virtual technology to assist them,” said Dr. Rod Lim, the medical director for the Paediatric Emergency Department at Children’s Hospital.

“We’re really proud of this care delivery innovation, and pleased to be extending our hours and reach further into southwestern Ontario.”

Officials say the pilot project received provincial funding which was doled out by the Ontario government in an effort to enhance the pandemic response through virtual care options.

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