Local medical staff address patient confidentiality; offer new resources

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March 27 Lady Minto Hospital Medical Staff Association COVID-19 Update:

A gentle reminder to people who have been asking whether there are cases on Salt Spring: We are committed to the confidentiality of our patients and will not disclose any more than the information you are receiving from the Medical Officer of Health. Our regulatory body, The College of Physicians and Surgeons has said:

“. . . Dr. [Bonnie] Henry is taking great care to ensure the privacy of individuals who are affected, which of course is of utmost importance. The College has recently learned of instances where information has been posted on social media or provided to the press about individual patient cases and test results, including the identification of certain smaller communities. This is not acceptable. Physicians must not disclose information about individual patients in any setting, including stories shared directly with other people, even if patient identities are not revealed. The risk of a privacy breach is too great.” 

We are also aware that there is a time lag between the arrival of the virus in a community and the identification of individual cases. The fact that a community has not had an identified case should not be interpreted as meaning that the virus is not present. For that reason, we should all assume that the virus is present and continue to maintain social distancing to break the chain of communicability.

Lady Minto Hospital and your family doctors’ offices are functioning in the same way as other BC hospitals and physician offices — taking the highest degree of infection precautions to prevent a local outbreak.        

There has also been some confusion around 10 and 14 days of isolation. There are two factors at play here:

One is the incubation period, which refers to the time between exposure to infection and appearance of first symptoms. Those who have travelled or been in contact with a known COVID-19 case need to self-isolate for 14 days to see if they are incubating the infection. If they have the coronavirus, symptoms will appear within 14 days. The incubation period is believed to be two to 14 days with a median of five days.

The other is the period of communicability, which refers to the time period during which the virus can pass from host to host. For those who have known respiratory symptoms, the period of communicability is considered to be 10 days after onset of symptoms. Those with respiratory symptoms that can be managed at home can return to their routine activities after 10 days if temperature is normal and they feel better. Coughing may persist for several weeks and does not mean the individual is infectious and must self-isolate.  

If you are unsure please call your family doctor.

Today, we offer a few resources that we hope are useful to the community:

• BC’s 211 service, which provides free information and referral regarding community, government, and social services, has expanded their program to connect seniors to local volunteer assistance during the COVID-19 crisis. If you are in need of non-medical help, or would like to volunteer to help, you can register on their website: http://www.bc211.ca/safe-seniors-strong-communities/

• The Child and Youth Mental Health & Substance Use Community of Practice offers this resource for families dealing with stress and anxiety around COVID-9. Please note this is a PDF file: http://www.sharedcarebc.ca/sites/default/files/CYMHSU%20CoP%20-%20Managing%20Anxiety%20and%20Stress%20in%20Families%20with%20Children%20and%20Youth_COVID-19%20(ID%20322929).pdf

• To see how social distancing is working in B.C., watch this address by Dr. Bonnie Henry from CBC: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/covid-19-bc-modelling-numbers-dr-bonnie-henry-1.5512269

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