There's been so much health information thrown at us over the last few months and it can be very scary to navigate and make sense of. 

In some cases people have been ignoring health concerns because they are under the impression that doctors are only dealing with emergencies right now. 

But that's not the case and we should be calling our doctor if we need to address an important health issue. 

Dr. Janet Reynolds is the Medical Director for Cochrane's Primary Care Network and has been heavily involved with the COVID-19 planning in our community.

Dr. Reynolds says family doctors play an essential role in health care and that is true more than ever during this global health crisis. 

"If you have a family doctor you should phone your doctor's office. Many things right now can be managed either over the phone or with a virtual appointment and the vast majority of the virtual appointments that you might be hearing about are actually phone calls and some offices are doing those via appointment or within a couple of hour time frames where your doctor will call you back."

She says doctor offices are still open but many appointments have gone virtual. 

"In general patients are very happy, they're quite surprised to get a phone call from their doctor. Most patients feel a bit of relief to have that connection and to be able to get care. Many people appreciate that they didn't have to leave their home especially if they are self isolating for some reason. They don't have to drive a half hour to get to the doctor and then pay for parking. And we're just happy to be looking after our patients."

Dr. Reynolds says if you do need to go into a clinic for an appointment there's some safety precautions being taken. 

"It's been recommended that everybody get screened for COVID-19 symptoms or any sort of flu-like symptoms before they come in for an in-person appointment if that's what's been decided that they need so that's very different than before. Just like going to the grocery store if you're able to physically distance you don't need to wear a mask. I think it's important to remember the masks protect other people around you more then it protects you."

She says if you do have flu-like symptoms don't be alarmed if your doctor is wearing full personal protective equipment. 

"If a patient comes in for an in-person appointment and they have a symptom like a sore throat or cough they're given a mask and put right into an exam room. I would say pre COVID a patient may be given a mask but they might have to wait in the waiting room if the clinic was full. So they're put right into an exam room and very likely will be seen by a physician wearing full PPE so that's a gown, gloves, a mask and a face shield." 

Dr. Reynolds says she wants to clear up any misconceptions when it comes to patients needing to see their family doctor right now. 

"I just want to emphasize that family physicians are open for their patients. It may be slightly different then a patient is used to getting care but still very happy to care for our patients and probably in the best position to care for our patients as we know them best."

In a press release sent out by the Primary Care Network it lists the top 10 reasons to call your family physician during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Renew a prescription or adjust medications
2. Support, assessment or follow up of pre-existing chronic health conditions, for example high blood pressure or diabetes
3. Support of assessment of a new health concern
4. Mental health and addiction concerns
5. Sexual health-related concerns
6. Pregnancy and newborn care
7. Healthy baby and child check-ups
8. Support for social issues and connection to community resources
9. Minor injuries
10.Other questions about your health, or a need for health education 

If you don't have a family doctor you can search for one who is accepting new patients here.