The doors of Halifax Regional Municipality’s first flu assessment centre opened Thursday, part of an effort to reduce the number of people flocking to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms.

 

According to Dr. Rick Gibson of the Capital District Health Authority, family practitioners and hospitals have seen a marked increase in people suffering from flu.

 

“(The centre) is basically intended to supplement the services available in the family doctor’s offices, and to offload emergency departments which are seeing a rise in the number of people with flu-like illnesses,” he explained.

 

Gibson attributes the increase partially to panic about the H1N1 pandemic.

“Anybody whose got any viral illness, given the uncertainty, is running off to the doctor, running off to the emergency department, running off to wherever,” he said. “For the moment, because of the demand, (the centre) is open and we can keep it open as long as it’s necessary.”

The assessment centre, located in the Maritime Hall at the Halifax Forum, is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. People with flu-like symptoms can go to the centre to have their condition evaluated by a nurse and, if necessary, a doctor.

If their condition is not deemed to be serious, the nurse may simply advise the person to go home and rest. For more serious situations, the doctor is on hand to diagnose and prescribe, and, if necessary, send the person to an emergency room.

According to Gibson, another centre will be opening in Burnside soon, and more are possible should demand increase.

Gibson however stressed the assessment centre is not providing the H1N1 vaccination.

“We would like to emphasize right of the bat this is where people come when they’re sick,” Gibson said. “There will be no vaccine here, this is not where people come to get flu shots.”