Sunnybrook now offering virtual ER amid concerns some aren't seeking treatment due to COVID-19 fears
Sunnybrook Hospital is seen in this undated photograph posted to Google Maps. (courtesy of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre)
Published Wednesday, December 2, 2020 10:07AM EST
A Toronto hospital has launched a new virtual emergency room service that will allow patients with “urgent but non life-threatening health concerns” to speak with a doctor from the comfort of their homes.
The new service at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is part of a six-month pilot project that will also involve Unity Health and the University Health Network.
Starting today, anyone with an Ontario health card can book a virtual appointment with an emergency room doctor at Sunnybrook. The service will be available from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays but patients can only book an appointment for the same day.
The booking system will open each day at 12 p.m.
“Our emergency department saw a decrease in patient visits during wave one of the pandemic in the spring, likely due to patient fears of COVID-19,” the hospital said in a press release. “By offering same-day virtual appointments with emergency department physicians, this pilot aims to reach patients in their homes so that they do not have to come to the hospital. It also aims to service under-served populations, reduce wait times and improve the patient and family experience.”
The virtual emergency room service is open to anyone in Ontario, though patients are being encouraged to use the emergency room closest to them.
Its launch comes as the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to rise, threatening the ability of some hospitals to continue offering elective surgeries and procedures.
As of Tuesday, 645 COVID patients were being treated in Ontario hospitals, including 185 in intensive care units.