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Renfrew County triage and assessment centre marks 1,000 days

The Renfrew County Assessment Centre. (Dylan Dyson/CTV News Ottawa) The Renfrew County Assessment Centre. (Dylan Dyson/CTV News Ottawa)

Born out of need at the onset of the pandemic, Renfrew County's Virtual Triage and Assessment Centre (VTAC) marked 1,000 days in operation as of Wednesday.

A first of its kind system in Ontario, VTAC started in Renfrew County 12 days after the province declared the COVID-19 pandemic. It was created to ease the sudden burden on local hospital emergency rooms and family physicians.

"It started really as a solution to providing swab testing in the very early days of the pandemic," says Renfrew County's chief paramedic Mike Nolan, who was one of the founders of the program.

What began as a tool to combat COVID-19 has now evolved after serving nearly 75,000 people.

"[It] grew into a service that allowed anybody in Renfrew County to call our 1-800 number, speak with a medical receptionist, and get connected with a primary care physician to be able to deal with any issues that a family doctor may be expected to deal with over the phone," Nolan told CTV News.

Primarily run by the county's paramedic service VTAC says they can provide timely care to non-emergency medical concerns, which reduces the impact on an already strained healthcare system.

"VTAC represented that alternative to calling 9-1-1, going to the emergency department, and really gave those people who either did not have a family doctor or were not able to access their family doctor an option so that nobody suffered in silence."

According to the service, more than 70 per cent of those who accessed Renfrew County's VTAC program in the previous 1,000 days did not have a family doctor or primary healthcare provider.

"Many Ontarians don't have a family doctor and Renfrew County has about 20 to 25 per cent of the population without a family doctor," says Nolan. 

"So we've known for a long time that we have access to health care issues certainly in rural Ontario and in parts of urban Ontario as well."

As VTAC continues as a vital health care service for the Ottawa Valley, Nolan is hoping the province expands funding for parallel programs throughout Ontario.

"We've given them an alternative to seek care in a different kind of way, but also in a way that's met their needs." Top Stories

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