Many Central Albertans said their health during pandemic affected by putting off doctor visits

In Central Zone, 28 % said their health greatly affected by delaying seeking medical help

Far more central Albertans said their health was greatly affected by delays in seeking medical help because of COVID-19, compared with residents in the province’s other four health zones.

The Health Quality Council of Alberta released findings this week from its first comprehensive survey aimed at understanding the experiences of Albertans during the pandemic. Between May 25 and June 29, 11,149 Albertans responded to the survey.

Twenty-eight per cent of central Albertans said delays in seeking help for a medical problem greatly affected their health, four times higher than the seven per cent who answered in the affirmative to the same question in Calgary, the next highest percentage.

Six per cent of respondents in the north and Edmonton zones, and three per cent in south zone said their health was greatly affected by delays.

Why residents of the central zone reported higher health impacts is unclear.

“That’s a million-dollar question,” said Charlene McBrien Morrison, acting CEO for the provincial agency. “As to why, we just didn’t have that further insight.

“Is it because of access to services? It’s very hard to say.”

McBrien Morrison said there are more analytics that could be done.

“One of the questions we did not ask is why — why did you delay getting health care?

“That is something we would want to look at.”

Overall, 30 per cent of respondents in Alberta said they delayed getting health care during the pandemic, with 22 per cent saying it affected their health “greatly” or “quite a bit.”

It appears virtual healthcare visits have become routine now.

In the central zone, 86 per cent of respondents had a virtual healthcare visit. The other zones ranged from 77 per cent in the north zone to 90 per cent in the Calgary zone.

McBrien Morrison said a second survey is planned for October and its results are expected to be available early in the new year.

Comparing those numbers to those released this week may paint a clearer picture of what is behind some of the results and whether residents’ views have shifted, she said.

To participate in the survey, go to www.albertacovidsurvey.com.

While a larger share of central Albertans felt their health was greatly affected by treatment delays, a greater percentage of respondents in this zone felt very well protected from being infected by COVID-19, compared with residents in the province’s other four health zones.

In the central zone, 31 per cent felt very well protected from the virus, compared with only 18 per cent in the Edmonton zone.

The Calgary zone, with 20 per cent feeling protected, was the next lowest, followed by the north zone (21 per cent) and the south zone (24 per cent).

Overall, 65 per cent of respondents reported feeling protected from COVID-19 infection.

However, 72 per cent reported experiencing stress, anxiety or depression during the pandemic that they had difficulty coping with.

Top challenges included maintaining relationships (50 per cent), difficulty sleeping (48 per cent), inability to exercise as normal (48 per cent) and loneliness (46 per cent).

More than half of respondents — 52 per cent — said COVID-related restrictions struck a good balance, with 41 per cent saying the pace of lifting restrictions struck a good balance.



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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