Businesses told to close, health workforce bolstered

PORT HAWKESBURY: A new list of businesses were told to cease operations and Nova Scotia hospitals directed to close their doors to most visitors.

“That’s something that we all need to do, is that physical distancing,” Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer said on March 18. “But it’s also a time where we actually need to be more socially connected with each other because this is a difficult time.”

Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey announced the work that had already begun to expand the available workforce of both doctors and nurses has now been bolstered.

Working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons the province is making it faster for retired doctors to be re-licenced by waiving fees; more opportunities for casual, recently graduated and retired nurses; and the province was able to expanded the services being provided by 811 with the addition of 71 nurses having either completed or are in training to help.

To allow for social distancing in providing primary care services, doctors are now able to provide care via telephone and video conferencing, to manage unnecessary demand on primary care providers and to support the public heath directive to self-isolate, effective immediately employers will no longer be allowed to require any sick notes from employees.

Pharmacists will now be able to provide virtual-services and will no longer be required to conduct their clinical services in-person. Additionally, the new renewal services that were scheduled to come into effect April 1, Delorey indicated have been streamlined and are now in effect.

In a move to reduce the risk of drug shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists are limiting patients supply to only a 30-day amount.

In earlier releases on the same day, the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and IWK Health Centre announced a no-general-visit policy. Pediatric patients and women in labour will each be permitted only one support person.

A statement from NSHA said compassionate and supportive care exceptions would be made for patients at end-of-life and for substitute decision-makers, as required for plan of care.

“Multiple people waiting in hallways, family rooms or waiting rooms is not acceptable given requirements to social distance,” the health authority said. “In the case of pediatric patients, an exception may be considered for two parents in consultation with care team.”

Premier Stephen McNeil also announced all personal services, such as hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons, body art and fitness establishments must shut down.

“It’s important that everyone continues to do everything possible to keep our loved ones, our neighbours, and the most vulnerable in our communities safe,” he said. “We understand people are feeling a lot of anxiety…we will be there for you as we make our way through this challenge.”

This is the same reality for all service providers funded through the Community Services Department’s disabilities support program, including social enterprise, day programs, along with supported employment programs for adults with diverse abilities closing to both participants and the public.

Strang suggested people shouldn’t be alarmed as the number of cases of COVID-19 increase in the coming days as more Nova Scotians who have been outside of the country return home and their capabilities in the provincial lab of volume of daily tests increasing.

He expects it will be up to eight-weeks before officials truly understand the scope of positive cases.

“We fully expect this is going to have a significant impact on communities, a significant amount of people made unwell, and a significant impact on our healthcare system,” Strang said. “Everything we’re doing is to lower that impact as much as possible.”

McNeil said they want people home and they need to take this into their own hands and understand the severity of it.

“I think it’s important at this period of time is that all of us recognize what potentially was a normal practice three weeks ago, is not normal today,” he said. “It really is important that we do social distancing and we need to make sure many of us stay home as long as possible, quite frankly.”

Those who are feeling symptoms or who may have come into contact with someone who was infected can visit: https://811.novascotia.ca/.