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‘From the time I accessed the website to seeing someone, it took 45 minutes from the comfort of my own home.’ — Niagara Virtual Urgent Care patient

Posted Oct 6th, 2022

Overcoming with a lifeline through it

Overcoming is a series of stories about our patients and their remarkable healthcare journeys.

Every day, local residents and visitors are logging onto their home computers, tablets and smartphones to access Niagara Virtual Urgent Care and giving the service all-star reviews.

Niagara Virtual Urgent Care, which launched in March, is for adults who have a non-life threatening, urgent medical issue or health concern and who don’t have a primary care provider or can’t wait for a scheduled medical appointment.

It provides a safe, high quality care option through secure video link that patients can access from the comfort of home. Patients can book same-day appointments at a time that fits their schedule between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. with no waiting in an online or telephone queue to be seen.

Ninety per cent of patients who use virtual urgent care avoid an unnecessary visit to the Emergency Department (ED). In virtual appointments, where more care is needed, the service seamlessly integrates with Niagara Health’s in-person urgent care, making it easier for patients to access additional healthcare services within the hospital.

During a virtual visit, healthcare providers will assess a patient’s condition and recommend treatment. If they determine a physical examination or diagnostic testing is necessary, patients may be directed to the closest ED where they will continue their visit without the need to repeat their situation.

Patients who have used Niagara Virtual Urgent Care have been grateful for the care they’ve received and are keen to help spread the word. Here are some of their stories.

Monique Finley, Welland

An older woman with wavy hair smiles for the camera.

Monique Finley needed reassurance that she hadn’t broken a bone after a fall earlier this summer.

But with no family doctor, Monique had to find another way to put her mind at ease. She knew about the staffing pressures in local Emergency Departments and was reluctant to spend a lot of time waiting for care, especially as the seventh wave of the COVID-19 pandemic worsened.

Fortunately, friends pointed her to a low-stress option accessible from her home: Niagara Virtual Urgent Care.

Using the online booking portal was easy, she recalls, and being seen by a Nurse Practitioner happened soon after setting an appointment that same day.

“From the time I accessed the website to seeing someone, it took 45 minutes from the comfort of my own home,” Monique says. “I was thrilled.”

During her video call with the Nurse Practitioner, Monique was asked to manipulate her hand and report on the pain level. After 10 minutes of assessment and observing Monique, the Nurse Practitioner gave her assessment, including treatment, information about worsening symptoms and next steps.

Monique’s mind was put at ease.

“It reassured me it was very unlikely a broken bone, how to manage it and if some things happen, what to do. I was very reassured,” she says. “It was a call with a qualified person that really calmed me and I thought on every level this is a fantastic service and alternative to a busy Emergency Department.”

Rebecca Oehler, St. Catharines

A family portrait of a man and woman holding their young daughter

Rebecca Oehler (right) has used Niagara Virtual Urgent Care to find answers to her families health concerns.

As a busy working mom, Rebecca Oehler knows making room for healthcare appointments in her schedule can be a challenge.

She also knows that not every health issue that arises in her family requires an in-person visit with a healthcare practitioner, though there are times she needs help navigating her husband, daughter and herself through rashes, coughs and other concerns.

That’s why Niagara Virtual Urgent Care “has been a game-changer for us,” Rebecca says. “If anybody I know is sick, I send them a link to the service.”

It’s a service she and her family have used with confidence a number of times since it launched in the spring. Rebecca, who has asthma, has had her questions answered quickly, including the time her daughter had a rash and her husband developed cold-like symptoms this summer.  She consulted with a Niagara Health Nurse Practitioner through the virtual service to get the information she needed. Rebecca also knows she can easily book another appointment if symptoms change and require followup.

“I need to know quickly because things can turn badly quickly,” Rebecca says. “(The Nurse Practitioner) has been so wonderful every time. She’s been so good listening to us but also telling what to expect.”

And doing so in a clear and kind way, she notes.

“She’s so compassionate and knowledgeable and gives advice that’s easy to follow and understand. It’s one thing to be told what you can expect but another thing if it’s why,” Rebecca says. “If I can understand why something is happening, that gives me knowledge to take care of myself. She’s a great communicator.”

Jane Greig-Hatton, Niagara-on-the-Lake

A senior woman with glasses and curly hair smiles brightly for the camera

No one was more surprised she tested positive for COVID-19 in June than Jane Greig-Hatton.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake resident had attended a convention with her husband but had no symptoms of the respiratory illness when she took a rapid antigen test to ensure it would be safe to visit friends the weekend she returned home.

When her test results showed otherwise, the 76-year-old wondered about getting access to Paxlovid, the anti-viral medication used to treat certain cases of COVID-19. But Jane couldn’t get any clear answers.

It was while doing some research online that an ad popped up for Niagara Virtual Urgent Care. Jane took it as a sign. She booked an appointment for first thing Monday morning.

Jane spoke with a Nurse Practitioner who then connected her with the Emergency Department (ED) doctor on duty at the time. She was prompted to continue her visit at her closest ED where she was given a PCR test confirming her rapid antigen test results and prescribed treatment.

“I was treated very well at the hospital. They knew I was coming and put me in a room away from other people,” Jane says. “When I was feeling cold, they brought me a blanket because by that time, I was showing symptoms. I had confidence in the Nurse Practitioner and doctor that I was in the right place. That confidence comes from the Nurse Practitioner talking to you. She was so knowledgeable and got that second opinion. It’s a great service.”

Ready to book your appointment with Niagara Virtual Urgent Care? Visit Niagara Health Emergency and Urgent Care to learn more.

Niagara Health System