The Coronavirus COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic is maturing extremely rapidly and has overwhelmed local health services in a number of international jurisdictions. It is projected that a vaccine will not be available for more than 12 months and that to date we have no effective treatments other than supportive care. The central strategy to cope with this contagion has been preventing new infections through social distancing and isolation as we are all aware. Staying safe means working from home as much as possible, keeping our children home from school and minimizing trips out.
In most of our rural communities, health services are strangely quiet. Physicians are conducting much of their practice virtually and visits to the hospital emergency department are being avoided for all but the most necessary conditions. In spite of these dramatic public health interventions, however, the numbers of infections in Canada are slowly growing and the risk of transmission through community contact is increasing.
The RHSRNbc is working online to explore how we might contribute to keeping rural people safe, rural communities stable and rural health services functioning.
We have some suggestions that align with Public Health of Canada guidelines.
For the individual and the Family unit:
- Maintaining your health and immune function is your first and strongest line of defence (eating well, exercising and allowing enough time for sleep).
- If you have space for a garden, use it to grow your food.
- Take the time to engage with your family and friends virtually or while maintaining appropriate social distance.
- Recognize that asymptomatic people can spread the virus.
- We are living in a different world where we see lots of threats but also opportunities to engage in our world in ways we rarely had time for. Most importantly, I hope we are all kind and compassionate towards each other.
For the rural community:
- Recognize and encourage community leadership and organization at the local level.
- Look after the vulnerable members of the community and help to keep them safe.
- Work with your care provider team to keep them safe so they can provide the care that is needed.
For the local Rural Health Services:
- Secure adequate personal protective equipment for front line health care providers. (Recognizing that both aerosol and droplet spread can occur)
- Inventory the equipment you have, project what you will likely need and explore options for filling the gaps.
- Network through your local Division of Family Practice and the Rural Coordination Centre.
If you have ideas about innovative approaches to solving some of the challenges related to the COVID-19 threat to your community, please consider completing the survey being undertaken by the Centre for Rural Health Research (here). They will make findings available to communities across the province to learn from. Likewise, the Network is here to help with any researchable ideas.
Stay safe. We will get through this.
Stefan Grzybowski MD