Phone, virtual services helping to field coronavirus-related questions in Saskatchewan

Whether through virtual appointments with doctors or contacting HealthLine 811, phone and online services have had been handling questions related to the novel coronavirus response in Saskatchewan.

HealthLine 811 has responded to almost 53,000 COVID-19-related calls since March 17, and the online self-assessment tool launched March 15 has had over a million page views, according to a press release.

Since March 18, the provincial government said its COVID-19 webpage has had nearly 13 million views.

Based on doctor billings to the Ministry of Health, there were almost 370,000 virtual care services between March 13 and June 15.

Over this period, government officials said almost 19 per cent of Saskatchewan residents connected with a physician virtually. They added that some of the more common concerns were related to hypertension, diabetes and anxiety.

“Prior to COVID-19, the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) recognized the importance of virtual care as a supplemental way to provide physician services,” SMA president Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz said in a press release.

“The pandemic has reinforced this need, and I am proud of the manner in which our physicians have quickly adapted to this indelible change in health care delivery.”

Businesses have also had questions during the COVID-19 response, with the Ministry of Health responding to over 9,300 emails as of June 19.

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The government announced the launch of its Business Response Team on March 23 to better support Saskatchewan businesses dealing with the economic challenges resulting from the virus. Nearly 12,900 responses to clients’ phone and email inquiries have been fielded by the team.

“This has been a challenging time as all of us navigate this pandemic,” Health Minister Jim Reiter said in a press release.

“But I am proud of the way that services across government have been able to ensure Saskatchewan residents have access to the most up to date information about how to stay safe.”

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) offers a phone line for non-health-specific questions about the pandemic. As of June 21, SPSA said it had received nearly 13,000 calls with roughly 1,700 regarding alleged violations of mandatory public health orders.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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