Department Update – April 3, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly turned our world upside down. We are in the midst of a health crisis that has stopped or majorly altered many of our usual departmental activities. The daily news updates, statistics, and media reports have generated a certain level of stress and anxiety for everyone.

I hope you and your families are all coping well and are safe. If anyone is struggling, or needs some help, please contact me and I will try to assist as best I can.

At this time I want to provide a general update for the Department of Family Medicine.

All of our administrative staff in various capacities are diligently working from home to keep the department running smoothly despite this massive upset. Thank you to all who are managing admirably with this disruption. In spite of the distractions associated with working from home your rapid responsiveness to questions and issues that arise is much appreciated.

On the education front nearly all of our undergraduate medical activities are on hold until at least June. Medical students are not engaged in classes or clinical rotations. Many of them have shown initiative and have volunteered to provide tremendous service such as gathering PPE for frontline health workers and providing childcare services among other things. These activities have been extremely helpful.

Our family medicine residents are still fully engaged with their clinical work although the nature of this work has changed dramatically. Many clinical services have stopped or significantly reduced their non-urgent clinical work and many have switched to virtual patient care by contacting patients by telephone or video call, as is occurring at all of our teaching practices.  It seems like just a few days ago we were talking about virtual care in family medicine and suddenly we are fully engaged in it.

Our family medicine clinical faculty, both full-time and part-time, are busy maintaining virtual contact with their patients, as well as participating in assessment of patients with possible COVID symptoms either in various practice settings or in assessment centers. Many are stepping up to assist in hospital care in areas of need such as the urgent care center or at Parkwood Hospital. Our faculty members in palliative care will play a special role as things ramp up. There is no doubt that family physicians and residents will be significantly involved in hospital care if the anticipated increase of COVID – positive patients comes to pass.

On the research front the research faculty and staff in the Center for Studies in Family Medicine are working remotely, supplemented by ZOOM meetings. Some research studies have needed timelines adjusted and the Clinical Trials Unit is being managed remotely. No new studies or patient recruitment are in the works for the Clinical Trials unit at the present time, consistent with Lawson Research Institute guidelines.

Once again I want to thank everyone for your work under difficult circumstances to keep the department running smoothly. You can be assured that family medicine is playing a significant role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and that includes each of you playing your part in your own special way.