“From the time I accessed the website to see someone, it took me 45 minutes from the comfort of my own home.” — Niagara Virtual Emergency Care Patient – Niagara Health News, Updates & Publications | Niagara Health System

Every day, local residents and visitors log on to their personal computers, tablets and smartphones to access Niagara’s Virtual Emergency Care and give the service star reviews.

Niagara Virtual Urgent Care, which launched in March, is for adults who have an urgent, non-life-threatening medical condition or condition and do not have a primary care provider or cannot wait for a medical appointment.

It provides a safe, high-quality care option through a secure video link that patients can access from the comfort of their home. Patients can book a same-day appointment at a time that fits their schedule between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. without waiting in an online or phone queue to be seen.

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

During a virtual visit, healthcare providers will assess a patient’s condition and recommend treatment. If they determine that a physical exam or diagnostic tests are needed, patients can be directed to the nearest emergency department where they will continue their visit without having to repeat their situation.

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

Monique Finley, Welland

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

But without a family doctor, Monique had to find another way to reassure herself. She was aware of 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.

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

Using the online booking portal was easy, she recalls, and being seen by a nurse practitioner happened shortly after scheduling an appointment the same day.

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

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

Monique’s spirit was reassured.

“It reassured me that it was very unlikely to be a broken bone, how to deal with it and if certain things happen what to do. I was very reassured,” she says. It was a call with a qualified person that really calmed me down and I felt on all levels that this was fantastic service and an alternative to a busy emergency service.”

Rebecca Oehler, St. Catharines

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

Rebecca Oehler (right) used Niagara Virtual Urgent Care to find answers to her family’s health issues.

As a busy mom, Rebecca Oehler knows that fitting medical appointments into her schedule can be a challenge.

She also knows that not all health issues that arise in her family require an in-person visit with a medical professional, although there are times when she needs help managing 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,” says Rebecca. “If someone I know is sick, I send them a link to the service.”

It’s a service she and her family have used with confidence many times since it launched in the spring. Rebecca, who suffers from asthma, got quick answers to her questions, including the time her daughter had a rash and her husband developed cold symptoms this summer. She saw 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 the symptoms change and require follow-up.

“I need to know quickly because things can go wrong quickly,” says Rebecca. “(The nurse practitioner) has been so wonderful every time. She was so good at listening to us but also telling us what to expect.

And doing it in a clear and caring way, she notes.

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

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

An elderly woman with glasses and curly hair smiles brightly at the camera

No one was more surprised that 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 respiratory illness when she took a rapid antigen test to make sure it would be safe to visit to friends the weekend she returned home.

When her test results showed otherwise, the 76-year-old wondered about access to Paxlovid, the antiviral drug used to treat some cases of COVID-19. But Jane couldn’t get straight answers.

It was while researching online that an ad came up for Niagara Virtual Urgent Care. Jane took it as a sign. She made an appointment first thing Monday morning.

Jane spoke with a nurse practitioner who then connected her with the emergency department (ED) doctor on call at the time. She was advised to continue her visit to her nearest emergency department where she received a PCR test confirming the results of her rapid antigen test and the prescribed treatment.

“I was treated very well in the hospital. They knew I was coming and put me in a room away from the others,” Jane says. “When I was cold they brought me a blanket because at that time I was showing symptoms. I trusted the nurse practitioner and doctor that I was in the right place. That trust 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.

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