Question: I work in the community and am concerned about my safety as well as the safety of my clients. Should I be suspending services?
The College recognizes that the COVID-19 situation is unprecedented, uncertain and challenging for the public, patients and registrants. Along with our regulatory colleagues in British Columbia and across Canada, the College staff is keeping up to date on emerging news about COVID-19 and making information available on our website. The College website was updated on March 17 (https://cotbc.org/covid19) and staff will continue to update the website as new information becomes available.
Many registrants and clinic owners in the community, including but not limited to private practice, in-home private services and mobile occupational therapy services, are asking for advice about suspending services. The College does not have the legal authority to mandate practice closures or direct occupational therapists to cease practice. Rather the College is looking to public health principles and guidance provided by BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry to inform our advice to registrants and the public.
To date, our advice has been that registrants and clinic owners should do their own risk assessment and determine what is best for individuals, patients and staff. We continue to believe that individual risk assessment is good practice, however, in light of the March 16th Ministry of Health press conference announcing the cancellation of acute care scheduled and elective surgeries, increasing restrictions in Long Term Care, the College strongly recommends that occupational therapists and their support personnel providing services in the community only do so to address patients with urgent needs. The College cannot define what is urgent as the context of each practice is the key consideration. Factors to consider when weighing whether your practice, or aspects of it, provides an urgent service include the patient population, practice location and other available services. We encourage you to be in discussions with your organization about which services are considered essential or non-essential and create plans to serve those in need.
Services may be postponed, cancelled or provided by telehealth if telehealth services are an appropriate option to meet patient needs. The College is working on creating an FAQ to address emerging question regarding telehealth practice. The College also encourages community service providers to consider waiving any cancellation fees.
As always, we encourage registrants to use the Code of Ethics, the Essential Competencies of Practice for Occupational Therapists in Canada, COTBC’s Standards of Practice, and College Bylaws as you make decisions about the care you provide and/or continuing or discontinuing services. If you do provide occupational therapy services, safety is of utmost importance. You must follow infection prevention and control procedures and have personal protective equipment (PPE) to provide care. If you do not have PPE, speak with your employer or contact Public Health.
The College recognizes that decisions being made with respect to COVID-19 come with consequences: personal, financial and ethical and these are very challenging times. If you have specific questions that are not addressed on the website email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that the practice advisors are receiving a large number of emails and calls and will respond as quickly as possible.
*Note: Thanks to The College of Physical Therapists of BC for permission to adapt their COVID-19 Advice to Registrants letter dated March 17, 2020.
Question: I am a B.C. registered occupational therapist. I just returned from an international vacation. Should I return to work?
B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a letter with guidance on whether or not health care workers should self-isolate upon returning from travel outside Canada. The answer depends on whether you are a non-essential or essential health care worker.
Please reflect on your role as an occupational therapist. The College cannot define what is urgent/essential as the context of each practice is the key consideration. Factors to consider when weighing whether your practice, or aspects of it, provides an urgent service include the patient population, practice location and other available services.
We encourage you to be in discussions with your organization about which services are considered essential or non-essential and create plans to serve those in need.
Question: Given the COVID-19 crisis, can I use telehealth to provide occupational therapy services?
Please review COVID-19 Practice Guidance: Telehealth in Occupational Therapy Practice for a list of considerations on using this technology in your practice.