In response to the increase in H1N1 cases, six flu assessment centres will open across the city today.

The centres, which are intended for people who suffer flu-like symptoms but do not have a family doctor and are not ill enough to go to hospital, will help lessen the burden on local hospital emergency departments.

“Of course I’m not pleased to need to make this announcement,” said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Isra Levy. “This is something we thought we might have to do. In fact, once we knew there was a pandemic influenza, we knew we would get to the stage where we would need to take some burden off of the primary-care and hospital-care sectors.”

The assessment centres are located at six community health centres: Sandy Hill, Somerset West, Centretown, Dempsey, Carlington and Pinecrest-Queensway. Health agencies serving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities will also be providing assessment and treatment.

While centre staff will diagnose and treat symptoms, they will not provide vaccine, Levy said. People who want the vaccine will still be able to get it through city clinics, said Levy.

There’s a divide between clinics and centres because the city doesn’t want people who are well to be exposed to ill people.

Levy said the city expected to receive its first delivery of 5,000 doses of non-adjuvanted vaccine last night. He added that it’s likely the vaccine will be available to pregnant women as soon as tomorrow.

Levy said there will be enough vaccine for all Canadians who want it, but “the supply … is going to be an issue … during this week.”

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