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Changes abound as health-care doors reopen

Drs. Thom and Sarah Green, along with their children Lyla and Dillon, celebrate the reopening of their clinic, Elmira Family Chiropractic. [Sean Heeger]

Decidedly hands-on medical services, from dentistry to physiotherapy, are an option again, as the province eases coronavirus-related restrictions. Such regulated health professions now have the green light to get back in business.

That’s good news for practitioners who’ve been sidelined since March, and for the patients who rely on their services.

More than 25 professions, including dentists, chiropractors, psychologists, and optometrists, are on the latest list of those cleared for reopening, subject to approval from their respective associations and colleges.

Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer of health for Ontario, encourages those in the professions to proceed with caution as they reopen. He also set out a list of requirements which must be followed, such as using personal protective equipment, opting for remote treatment when realistic and prioritizing patients who are more in need.

Locally, there are many businesses that have responded to the opportunity now that the government and their respective associations have cleared the way. But, things will be a little different for patients who are going in for their treatment and care. Personal protective equipment such as masks will be worn by the health professionals – and patients, when necessary. The number of patients allowed into the office at one time is going to be reduced and appointments will be mandatory for some places that used to allow walk-ins.

These are just a few of the universal changes that were implemented, but, depending on the care you are receiving, there may be more health protocols in place wherever it is you’re being treated.

If you’re heading for a dental appointment, those at the Arthur Street Dental office are ready to help with all your oral hygiene needs. But they have put in place a few protocols that will make your entire visit much different.

“Some of the physical changes that patients will visually appreciate as soon as they walk into the office are plexiglass barriers, hand hygiene stations, a reception area with only enough chairs to allow for physical distancing, toys and magazines removed to minimize high-contact surfaces, (and) air purifiers in each treatment room,” said Dr. Linda Vo.

“We have also taken the added step of adding doors to isolate each treatment room and minimize cross-contamination. Patients will also see that depending on the procedure being performed, we will dress differently.  That is because we follow very strict guidelines with respect to PPE to protect ourselves and hence our patients.”

Vo says other changes include allowing only patients inside – unless they require assistance – and a pre-screening when the appointment is booked, as well as when they arrive.

Local chiropractors Sarah and Thom Green of Elmira Family Chiropractic opened their doors again May 28 and were very happy to be able to serve the community again. They began preparing three weeks prior to the official opening, readying all the necessary equipment and implementing all the necessary changes.

“We wanted to be as ready as possible, so we pretty much got everything possible set and then we figured whenever they tell us what we need to do we’ll have all of it (prepared),” said Sarah.

Sarah said she and Thom are now always wearing PPE, which is a big change from what they’re used to doing. In addition to their new gear, they are expanding their sanitation practices and cleaning the beds thoroughly after each patient, hand sanitizing and washing is done by everyone who enters the office and decreasing the number of people allowed inside the office at any given time.

They are also screening patients over the phone before appointments by conducting a “COVID questionnaire” and doing contract tracing by taking names and phone numbers of anyone who enters the space so if there happens to be a case of the virus, everyone can be contacted and notified.

At SOS Physiotherapy, patients will see much of the same health and safety measures taken. Jonathon Clay, owner of the practice in Elmira, says he’s following practices set out by the medical college and others who he has spoken to in the businesses.

Clay says he is limiting the number of therapists at a time and only two patients being seen each hour. All patients must wear a mask and are encouraged to bring their own, but they will provide one if needed.

If getting out for an appointment is still troubling for some people, Clay says they are offering virtual physiotherapy – a form of treating patients they started during the lockdown – for people who need it.

“A lot of what we do is educational, it’s activity modification, it’s showing exercises and whatnot to do… so there are things you can do with a rolling pin or a tennis ball to do your soft tissue techniques that we might do in clinic, and we can do them while on video,” said Clay.

Similar practices can be seen at other local health professional businesses including Elmira Family Eye Care, where Dr. Carolyn Barth says the changes there reflect precautions taken by other health-care professionals. Patients will see changes when they return, including a doorbell to allow them to gain entry into the building, filling out an ocular assessment prior to their appointment and making an appointment, even to pick up their new frames.

For specific information on changes being implemented, contact your specific health professional to inquire.

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