Stock photo, doctor on laptop screen

County seeking support to establish permanent virtual health care centre

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday October 1, 2020

Warden says Virtual Triage and Assessment Centre vital in “meeting the healthcare needs of our community.”

The county is looking for support from Petawawa to ensure that the Renfrew County Virtual Triage and Assessment Centre (RC VTAC) becomes a permanent feature.

Recently,  Renfrew County Warden Debbie Robinson met with the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus where she was met with unanimous support for the continuation of RC VTAC.

This in light of the provincial government signalling a few changes that may put the virtual healthcare model in jeopardy.

However Chief Mike Nolan, Director of Emergency Services, is actively participating in numerous Ontario Health Advisory Committees that are planning and recommending options to the province.

Virtual Triage has been used by healthcare workers in the community to provide access to the nearly 24,000 people in the County of Renfrew who do not have a family doctor.

The RC VTAC allowed people to reach out to healthcare workers with their concerns and medical issues without having to travel long distances or wait in the hospital emergency room.

“People who had no access to a doctor for years, now had episodic care,” Robinson wrote in a letter to Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “I have been involved in family physician recruitment for 14 years, and I have witnessed what can happen to people who do not have basic healthcare. It is devastating, and it is heartbreaking.

VTAC, in the midst of a pandemic, is meeting the healthcare needs of our community,” she added.

Though instituted during the start of the pandemic, it wasn’t designed to addresss just COVID-19 concerns. Anyone who does not have a primary care provider, or who cannot access that individual in a timely manner was encouraged to call and speak to a doctor, nurse practitioner or community paramedic.

“While I am the first to acknowledge that RC VTAC is not a replacement for regular primary health care from a family physician, there is no doubt it is offering a service long denied people due to the critical shortage of family doctors within the County of Renfrew,” said Robinson.

Though care typically wasn’t immediate, nearly every patient received an appointment during the same day.
This alleviated some of the burden on emergency rooms, as well as addressing patient concerns about having their medical needs seen to promptly.

“Within Days of RC VTAC expanding its mandate to include people who do not have a family doctor or who could not access their family doctor, emergency room visits began to decline,” notes Robinson. “For example, our Pembroke Regional Hospital dropped from an average of 120 visits per day to 80.”

Having the RC VTAC permanently in place will allow everyone to receive some form of medical care.

It is particularly crucial now that several local physicians plan to leave their practice within the next few years. One Petawawa doctor is ceasing his practice on Nov. 1, 2020, leaving about 900 patients orphaned, and more are following suit, leaving up to an additional 20,000 patients in the same position.

To access RC VTAC care, please call 1-844-727-6404 or visit for more information.