London, Hamilton hospitals partner to provide urgent care virtually

A woman has a virtual visit with a doctor. (File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / AndreyPopov)

A new partnership between London’s Children’s Hospital and two Hamilton hospitals will make urgent care available online.

The pilot project was launched by the London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, and Hamilton Health Sciences. It will allow adults, children, and residents at select long-term care homes in southwestern Ontario to consult with urgent care physicians without having to leave home.

Children’s Hospital will provide virtual care to children and youth, while St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton will handle appointments with adults. Hamilton Health Sciences will tackle the needs of long-term care residents in Hamilton and Niagara North West.

All three of the virtual clinics can been accessed through UrgentCareOntario.ca. Adult and children virtual clinics will run daily from noon until 8 p.m. Virtual acute care consultations for long-term residents will be held daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and can be made at the request of the resident’s health-care providers.

Appointments can be booked through the website or by phone at 1-844-CARE-844 (1-844-227-3844).

Virtual appointments will see the patient assessed by a doctor to determine next steps, which could include diagnosing the medical issue and prescribing treatment. If required, new medication can be prescribed during the virtual visit. However, refills of previously prescribed prescriptions cannot be made through the service. It is also possible the doctor will recommend the patient visit the emergency room in person.

Children’s Hospital has been offering a virtual emergency clinic since last May and the new pilot project is considered an extension of that.

“Families have been so grateful and overwhelmingly enthusiastic about our clinic that we are so happy to expand our hours, and offer more convenient ways for families from across the southwestern Ontario region to access our clinic,” Dr. Rod Lim, medical director of the paediatric emergency department at Children’s Hospital, said in a statement. “As the second COVID-19 wave continues across the province, we understand families are concerned about coming to the hospital, or would like advice over virtual technology to assist them… This service gives families an alternative care option.”

The hospitals have stressed that the new virtual program is not meant to totally replace in-person visits to the emergency department.