While some medical services were on hold or disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to abortion care in Greater Victoria and on Vancouver Island has not been impacted, although the way it is delivered has changed.
“Running an abortion clinic, you sometimes have the plan and do drills for all different kinds of emergencies like medical emergencies or disruption from protesters,” said Dawn Fowler, executive director of the Vancouver Island Women’s Clinic. “But we hadn’t thought about a pandemic so now we’ve incorporated that into our exercises.”
The clinic, which is based in View Royal but serves individuals from across the Island, has been open during the pandemic as an essential service. Fowler said that while there have been reduced numbers coming to the clinic, anybody who wanted access to abortion services has been able to receive it.
“We reconfigured the clinic and made it accessible, we adhere to social distancing and schedule in a way that there is no overlap,” Fowler said. “Basically it’s only the patient coming in the clinic, there’s no opportunity for people to come together.”
The initial assessment of patients is done through telehealth, a change from in-person assessments pre-coronavirus. Patients are able to go over their options and once they’ve decided on a preferred method, visit the clinic to have a physical exam and ultrasound to confirm their eligibility.
Fowler, who has been with the clinic since its beginnings, said she never imagined they’d be dealing with a pandemic but now, have the proper protocols should one happen again in the future.
With the increased use of telehealth amongst practitioners, Fowler said she thinks it’s something that will stick around even when the pandemic is over, due to its ease and accessibility. The number of trips to the clinic is reduced for patients, making access to care easier for those who are travelling from other parts of the Island. Follow-up visits can be done via telehealth as well.
“It’s fabulous that abortion care is considered an essential service so there’s been no disruption,” Fowler said. “But I think social distancing will be with us for quite some time and I think the delivery of health care will be forever changed.”