Implications of the Government of Alberta’s September 15 Announcement
ACOT has started to field inquiries since the new temporary measures were announced the evening of Sept 15, 2021. We’ve been asked whether they alter ACOT’s guidance for OTs particularly ACOT’s stance on asking about a client’s vaccination status given the new Restriction Exemption Program.
Regarding changes to ACOT’s current pandemic guidance: We have received notification from the Ministry of Health that the measures announced on September 15, 2021 do not apply to regulated health professionals and those professionals can continue to provide services in accordance to the guidance outlined by their regulatory bodies. As such. the August 16, 2021 version of ACOT’s Pandemic Guideline still stands.
Regarding ACOT’s stance on client vaccination status: ACOT’s current stance is to refrain from asking the vaccination status of your clients unless it is relevant to your role or treatment approach (as per original proof of vaccination guidance from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner). It may be that some OTs or their employers are eligible to implement the Restriction Exemption Program (REP)* for their business and ask all clients their vaccination status regardless of whether it is relevant to your role or treatment approach. Implementing a REP would allow you to ask clients for proof of vaccination or a negative test result; however:
- Factors such as a client’s health status including immunization status or ability/willingness to wear a mask should not bias service provision (Code of Ethics principles of Respect and Integrity); it would be considered unethical for a health professional to refuse services because a client unvaccinated; and,
- You must still adhere to ACOT’s Pandemic Guideline (August 16, 2021) which requires OTs to employ routine and additional IPC/workplace controls for all in-person service delivery regardless of a clients immunization status.
- At minimum, this requires utilization of appropriate engineering and administrative controls and the wearing of a medical grade mask (for both client and your own personal safety) and any other PPE deemed necessary for your personal safety as per your risk assessment.
*Note – the REP is intended for businesses which provide discretionary services not those that need to be accessed for daily living – forward all inquires about the definitions of discretionary and daily living to the Government of Alberta as ACOT is not privy to qualification criteria.
We also point you to the following related Q & A’s found on page 1-2 of the Practice FAQ’s: The COVID-19 Pandemic (July 2021):
Q – Do I still have to wear a mask/other PPE as required even if both my client and I are partially/fully immunized?
A – Yes, you are to continue to mask/wear PPE despite immunization status until notified otherwise by ACOT.
Q – What if my client/guardian doesn’t want me to wear a mask during therapy? Can I get them to sign a waiver indicating they acknowledge and accept the risks?
A – Although a signed waiver may support you if the client subsequently files a legal action against you, it would not prevent a finding of unprofessional conduct if a complaint was brought forward to ACOT. Non-adherence to ACOT’s guidance could also have implications for your liability insurance if a client becomes sick after service delivery.
Q – What if my client doesn’t want to/can’t wear a mask during therapy? Can I refuse to see them if they refuse to mask?
A- Throughout the pandemic, OTs have been seeing clients who are not able or not required to mask during service delivery. In cases where clients are unable or refuse to mask during service provision, continue to offer elimination (defer service delivery) or substitution (offer services virtually) as alternatives. If in-person service delivery is required, then you would employ appropriate workplace controls and PPE as per client screening and risk assessment.
Over the next editions of eNews, ACOT will provide the top ten most common causes of unprofessional conduct across all health professions that can give rise to a complaint. Each edition will also provide tips on how to prevent a finding of unprofessional conduct.
Failure to appropriately address patient concerns.
A patient or a family member with a concern about a patient’s care or a professional’s conduct will typically first approach the professional or a manager about their concerns. Many unprofessional conduct complaints are filed because the person felt that their concerns were not taken seriously by the institution or the professional.
What you can do:
Take all concerns and complaints seriously. “Actively listen” to the person making the complaint.
Be careful of labelling a patient as a “whiner” or a “complainer”. Patients, and their families, can often be difficult and sometimes unreasonable. However we must remember that the patient and their family are often under significant emotional and physical stress in an environment which they do not fully understand. An individual who feels that a professional or an institution has been dismissive about their concerns is much more likely to file a formal professional conduct complaint.
Understand the power of the “15 second apology” acknowledging the feelings of the person complaining. Example: “I am so sorry that all of this has resulted in you being distressed about your daughter’s care. I will advise my manager of your concerns.” You can often effectively address a person’s concerns without getting into a long debate about who was wrong or right.
Persons who feel their complaint was taken seriously and effectively addressed rarely file a complaint of unprofessional conduct with a regulatory college. For most people, filing such a complaint is a last resort when they perceive that nothing else has worked.
James T. Casey, Q.C. Field Law
Content from this article has been published with the permission of Field Law, and may be republished only with the consent of Field Law. “Field Law” is a registered trademark of Field LLP.
Two-factor Authentication – It’s On!
ACOT is requiring all registered OTs to use two-factor authentication when using our online registration and continuing competence program system. This update is implemented to further protect your online personal information.
When you login to your profile the system will automatically send you an email with a confirmation code. The email will be sent to the email address you receive your eNews and other ACOT correspondence – which may be different than the email you use for login. Check your email and if not found, check your junk mail for email@example.com. You have 30 minutes to enter the confirmation code. If the time expires, you can try again. We encourage you to login before the 2022 renewal.