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Social distancing is working in Oban as the number of new COVID-19 cases start to reduce.
Dr Erik Jespersen from Lorn Medical Centre said there had been an ‘initial flurry’ of cases in Oban but in the last week it has settled down.
‘There’s no doubt COVID is in the area but because people are doing social-distancing so well we are now seeing a reduction in new cases. It’s important people keep up that good job and stay at home,’ he said.
The known ‘flurry’ of Oban cases have included patients who have needed to be hospitalised.
‘Things are relatively quiet’ at the practice says Dr Jespersen who is worried some patients might be putting other health concerns on hold and not getting in touch, when they should.
‘I do think people are holding back a wee bit too much with other illnesses but we are still there for them. I would rather people get in touch earlier than leave it for after COVID,’ he added.
Patients can still ring the surgery as normal for consultations with nurses and doctors but appointments are likely to be over the phone with sent-in photographs of ailments and occasionally video appointments helping. Lorn Medical Centre also has surgeries on Mull and for Iona.
‘Our patients are doing a great job. They are being very understanding. We can tell a lot from a photograph or on a video call and it helps us make that decision if we need to see the patient in person,’ said Dr Jespersen.
Appointments in the surgery are being staggered as a safety precaution and patients will be given masks to wear.
Families are also being urged to keep up childhood immunisations, vulnerable patients who are shielding are being contacted to see if they need extra help, and practice nurses working from home are carrying out telephone reviews of patients with long-term conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
‘A special thanks to the district nurses who continue to provide a home visiting service to all those that need it and to all the home carers who do an amazing job looking after our most dependant patients. Staff in the local pharmacies are also working really hard,’ said Dr Jespersen.
The call for patients to still contact GPs for help with other health concerns has also come from Taynuilt Surgery and its other sites at Connel and Dalmally who have daily update meetings for all staff as part of their coping with COVID-19 plan.
Necessary face-to-face appointments can be made and nurses are still seeing patients but, like in Oban, visits to the surgeries have to be arranged beforehand.
Patients in vulnerable groups are also getting phone calls from clinicians to make sure they are getting the help they need and volunteers are running a medication collection service from Taynuilt surgery which is working well.
Connel Pharmacy now has a new hatch on the outside of the building to give out prescriptions.
The 37th Ardchattan Scout Group has also loaned out a tent which has been set up at the back of Connel surgery so patients with respiratory symptoms can be checked safely and reduce the risk of taking coronavirus into the main building.
Support from the general public has been overwhelming, from donations of hand sanitiser from The Old Curiosity Distillery to businesses providing face masks and gloves, and volunteers making gowns and scrubs. Former workers have also been baking and making lunches for hard-working staff, and children’s pictures in support of the NHS have been brightening spirits.
‘We would like to sincerely thank the local community and our patients. We very much appreciate your understanding and help during this exceptionally difficult time.
‘Special thanks also to all our staff who have coped magnificently with this situation, adapting to change and new ways of working on an almost daily basis. Remember – we will get through this,’ said practice manager Janice McGhee.
Over on Seil, Easdale Medical Practice manager Mary Phillips said support from the community has been ‘fantastic’, with organised volunteers from Easdale Island to Kimelford rallying round to pick up prescriptions and deliver to doorsteps.
Luing Ladies have been stitching gowns and scrubs for the practice, Midton Acrylics at Lochgilphead have provided visors and Seil Community Council has also passed on a list of telephone numbers of people willing to help run errands for patients on lockdown.
‘The organised support from all the communities we serve has been fantastic. We’ve been able to phone round our patients to check on them and make sure they get that help if they need it.
‘As a practice we were prepared for the worst but that has not happened yet. We are open for business. If people have any health concerns they should phone first as we are reducing face-to-face contact to protect patients and staff,’ said Mrs Phillips.