Province expanding Telehealth Ontario resources to reduce call wait times

Mar 16 2020, 6:15 am

The provincial government is expanding service capacity for Telehealth Ontario to reduce call wait times.

According to the Government of Ontario, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, it has taken this “critical step to help address the increased daily call volumes and reduce call wait times” on Telehealth.

“By immediately expanding Telehealth’s resources, we can significantly reduce the time it takes for Ontarians to receive the information they need to stay safe and healthy,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, in a statement. ”

We are also initiating further discussions with our nursing partners to ensure there are Telehealth resources in place moving forward as COVID-19 continues to evolve. We will be ready for any scenario.”

To date, the province said there have been more than 8,000 COVID-19 related calls.

Its latest health initiative is rolling out in two phases.

The first is to immediately increase resources to reduce call wait times.

“Yesterday, the province and Ontario Health started to deploy approximately 130 nurses to conduct symptom assessments and referrals among callers who request a callback. Nurses will work from existing regional offices to provide immediate support and respond to callers seeking a callback to help mitigate current wait times,” said the province in a release.

The second phase is to continue to manage COVID-19 call volumes.

“To further increase intake and nursing capacity over the coming days and weeks, Ontario is actively working with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) to identify support for Telehealth from its 44,000 registered nurse members. The province has also started to explore existing non-clinical resources within the Ontario Public Service and other broader public sector organizations to support Telehealth’s call volumes,” explained the province.

Additionally, Ontario has approved new physician billing codes to enable doctors to continue to provide routine health care services by video and telephone, including assessment of possible COVID-19 symptoms.

The province said this will help keep patients at home rather than in their doctor’s office where they would be in close contact with others.

Further, Ontario has also established dedicated assessment centres in areas experiencing significant growth in COVID-19 testing, with additional centres being established across the province in the coming weeks.

According to the provincial government, before visiting an assessment centre, individuals should first seek guidance on whether it is appropriate for them to do so. Ontarians can do so by using a new online self-assessment tool, calling Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or calling their local public health unit.

People should not go to an assessment centre unless they have symptoms of the COVID-19.