Opinion: COVID-19 doesn't mean ignoring other health issues

Thank you for following our advice by staying home, keeping your distance and washing your hands.

Health-care workers and many others in essential services continue to work in the front lines to meet our community’s needs. Our hospital teams appreciate your nightly displays of support.

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But your family doctor is worried - and misses you.

Across the country, the public doesn’t realize that their family doctors have remained in business – working with our partners in the community to provide the extra services demanded by the pandemic – and keeping our clinics open to attend to the rest of your health-care needs.

In communities across the province, physicians have organized COVID-19 testing and assessment sites.

Burnaby’s site has been open daily since March 28. The Central Park site was set up in just two weeks through the amazing collaboration of the City of Burnaby, the Burnaby Division of Family Practice, the RCMP, Burnaby Parks, Fraser Health and the invaluable non-government organizations that serve our community. It has been staffed by Burnaby’s family physicians and the allied staff of the Edmonds Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC).

This testing and assessment site is by referral only for Burnaby residents or patients of Burnaby family physicians. If you are concerned about possible COVID-19 symptoms, go to burnabycoronavirus.com.

All communities have set up their own local testing and assessment sites.

But what about the rest of your health?

Family doctors are concerned that while the public’s attention has been drawn to the pandemic, our patients’ ongoing health needs are being neglected.

In Canada, 44% of adults over 20 years old have at least one of 10 common chronic conditions, including hypertension, mood or anxiety disorders, diabetes, asthma, chronic lung disease and heart disease. Each of these conditions require active self-care and regular primary health care.

We’re also concerned that our patients may have worrisome symptoms that may indicate serious underlying conditions. Though they would normally seek medical care, many are fearful of public places.

Last week, in an interview with the CBC, Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of the Doctors of BC, noted some hesitation for patients to reach out about non-COVID-19 medical issues. 

Family physicians across the country have turned to telehealth – personal phone and online video consults to meet the needs of their patients. If you have medical concerns that would normally prompt an office visit, call your family doctor first.

If you do have a problem that requires an in person examination, this can be arranged. For these visits, patients who drive are often asked to remain in their vehicles so that they can be brought directly into an exam room. They may not recognize their family doctors and medical office assistants. We’ve all donned masks, gloves and goggles for everyone’s protection.

I’ve cancelled all my Empowering Patients public health talks but all the information from this public education program – videos, slides and practical handouts - are available free online:


You’ll find practical information about communicating with healthcare professionals, medical ethics, being prepared for hospital visits, healthy eating, physical activity, emotional wellbeing, healthy relationships, important screening tests, recognizing symptoms that require medical attention and managing chronic conditions.

If you happen to have any free time at home, consider this as a self-directed personal healthcare course.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. He was the founding chair and lead physician of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and continues to serve on the board. His Healthwise Column appears regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in life, read his blog at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.


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