WINNIPEG -- The Province of Manitoba is introducing new clinical options for people to access health care virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen said in a news release the new options for virtual care adds onto the initiative the province introduced in March.

READ MORE: Changes coming to Manitoba’s health care system to combat COVID-19

“As conventional ways of seeing a doctor are disrupted because of COVID-19, our government continues to act to find innovative ways to enable Manitobans to access family physicians and specialists by telephone or video conference to supplement traditional models of care," Friesen said in a news release.

The province said it has collaborated with Doctors Manitoba to add further time-limited tariffs for additional virtual services, including virtual primary care visits for residents of personal care homes who need routine care for chronic illnesses.

New options for virtual care also include:

  • consultation by telephone or video to enable family physicians and specialists to help Manitobans manage their acute, chronic and complex health conditions;
  • consultation by developmental pediatricians for families who care for children with developmental difficulties, ensuring timely access to care from home; and
  • chronic pain management assessments and follow up appointments to ensure people have safe access to these care needs.

The province also announced it will introduce telephone and video access for family physicians and specialties to help their patients manage mental health.

The province said the use of these new tariffs will only be allowed when a virtual appointment is appropriate and has the equal clinical-value to an in-person appointment.

"Virtual care is a vital clinical tool during the pandemic, allowing doctors and patients to connect by phone and video for many medical concerns," Dr. Fourie Smith, president of Doctors Manitoba said in a written statement.

"The announcement today means patients in Manitoba now have better access to their physicians, much closer to what was introduced earlier in other provinces as part of their COVID-19 response."

The province said these measures are being introduced to address a "significant drop" in patient visits to a physician since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Manitoba.

Smith said Manitobans are reminded not to put their health on hold. He encouraged Manitobans to call their doctor's office for advice about seeking care, and to find out if a virtual visit is right for them.