Burnaby’s COVID-19 testing site a boon for local health: doctor

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Cornelia Naylor Burnaby Now

APRIL 20, 2020 03:12 PM

About 40 to 50 people a day are visiting a temporary testing site in Burnaby’s Central Park to find out if they have COVID-19 – and that’s a good thing for the health of the whole community, according to the doctor in charge.

Not only can people be tested without getting out of their cars, those who have the virus and need help managing symptoms, like fever and shortness of breath, or treatment for secondary infections, like pneumonia or bronchitis, can get it onsite at one of three mobile treatment rooms.

Just as importantly, however, the site is helping divert the threat of the potentially deadly new virus away from other local medical facilities.

“This allows all of the other medical facilities to continue to provide care to their patients that don’t have any respiratory symptoms without being worried that we’re mixing in patients that are COVID-19 positive and thereby spreading the infection,” said Dr. Baldev Sanghera, the medical director of the Edmonds Urgent and Primary Care Centre. “This allows us to focus in on the COVID-19 patient here and then keep the rest of the facilities going for all of our other health-care needs.”

Sanghera said it was important for people with chronic diseases to keep talking to their family doctors during the crisis and getting help.

“We have to understand that we can’t not look after our patients with all the other problems. Life has to go on,” he said. “If we don’t manage those, then we’re going to notice that in a month or two those chronic diseases are worse, and that will end up causing further downstream problems for us,” he said.

The temporary Central Park COVID-19 testing site is an extension of the urgent and primary care centre at #201-7315 Edmonds St., a new kind of clinic designed to divert people without a family doctor away from hospital emergency rooms.

“We serve anybody that’s either living in Burnaby or is being looked after by a physician in Burnaby,” Sanghera.

When the crisis hit, however, he said the centre couldn’t handle the volume of patients needing testing, so it set up the satellite site at the park with funds it gets from the health ministry to provide primary care in the community.

“All of the family physicians in Burnaby, we have set up a rotation, so all of us take turn,” Sanghera said.

He said Burnaby doctors were uniquely positioned to mobilize the site because of their primary care network, a new team-based approach to primary care being funded by the provincial government.

“Most other communities haven’t had the luck of being able to set up their primary care network ahead of time,” Sanghera said. “They’re in the process. We were just a little bit ahead of the curve by sheer luck, and we just leveraged that.”

Burnaby’s mayor and four MLAs toured the Central Park testing site Friday, and all said they were impressed by the level of coordination involved between numerous agencies.

“This is a testament of Burnaby’s solidarity and resiliency,” Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Anne Kang said.

Burnaby North MLA Janet Routledge called the city a “role model.”

“And I think that there are things that are being put in place as a result of this current crisis that will serve us well in the future, the kind of networking, the kind of long-term reaching out into the community,” she said.