Dr. Lawrence Welsh, a local family practitioner and medical lead at the Mission COVID-19 assessment centre, speaks with one of the many dedicated people working at the centre. / Kevin Mills Photo

Doctor says ‘we got it right, here in Mission’

Head of the local COVID-19 Assessment Centre says other cities using Mission’s format

Dr. Lawrence Welsh, a local family practitioner and medical lead at the Mission COVID-19 assessment centre, said the assessment model used in Mission, rather than a testing model, is now the standard that other centres are attempting to reach.

“So we got it right, here in Mission,” he said.

When the centre was first established, Welsh said he and the staff weren’t sure what to expect.

“We were told about this wave, this tsunami. I expected to be swimming and then drowning. They’ve actually bent the curve so it’s no longer running flat out; we are kind of at a slow jog,” Welsh said.

READ: Inside Mission’s COVID-19 Assessment Centre

He believes the big risk now is that people will get bored and fatigued.

“So the message we want out is, just because we bent the curve, it doesn’t mean that this is over. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint.”

He called the COVID-19 situation an evolving and confusing picture, because it’s constantly changing.

If you think you may have the virus, Welsh said speaking to your family physician should still be the first point of contact for Mission residents.

“They will screen and triage you. It’s more reassuring to hear from your own doctor that ‘This is OK, you can stay at home’ or ‘You need to be seen.’”

Your family doctor can then call the assessment centre or direct the patient to the centre.

“We will test you, or assess you, with the emphasis on assessment. We can do it safer here because we have people in the correct protective equipment, which protects doctors, their offices, it protects the nurses and it protects the people we are seeing,” Welsh said.

He said the testing of symptomatic people is much better than asymptomatic people, and recent changes to testing criteria means that almost everybody with symptoms will be tested.

The best advice he can give is if you feel a little under the weather, stay home and self-isolate.

“If 2020 has given us anything, it’s there is no brave sick, there are no heroes when you’re sick. So that person who always turned up to work and never took a day off sick – even if they were sick – that’s gone. If you’re sick, you’re sick and you stay home and you do the social distancing.”

If you do get an appointment for the assessment centre, Welsh wants people to remember that “it’s not a treatment centre; we’re not a hospital.”

The centre is where people get assessed, tested and educated, but not treated.

“Everyone gets talked to because people are scared. Some are in tears when they arrive here. When we approach them wearing our PPE (personal protective equipment), we have to be so sensitive because they are terrified. Someone wearing a mask and everything, telling them to stay away, the intake is very difficult. By the time they get in, hopefully they are reassured.”

Welsh said many of the visitors to the centre are frustrated because they had false expectations created.

“‘I’m going to be tested and I’m going to get better.’ Well, testing doesn’t make you better. The testing doesn’t change what you’re going to do,” he said.

While it’s been open for several weeks now, there hasn’t been a big rush of patients. The centre is seeing fewer than 20 people a day.

Welsh said about 80 per cent of people who have COVID-19 have minor or no symptoms.

“If you are young, if you are sub-17, small children, you can’t tell. Just assume that they’ve got it. From my point of view that’s the safest thing because they’re not going to get sick from it. If a child is sick, it’s not likely COVID-19, it’s something else.”

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