COVID-19 Pandemic Information and Updates

Non-essential Services Defined

The Government of Alberta has updated and clarified the recommendations for regulated health professionals who are providing close contact health services. The following definition of “non-essential services” can be found in the Restrictions on Businesses section of Alberta Health’s COVID-19 info for Albertans page.

“Non-essential health services are those generally done to protect, promote or maintain the health of an individual but if interrupted would not endanger the life, health and safety of the individual”.

Non-essential health services can no longer be provided by regulated health professionals or registered professionals, unless:

  • The service is deemed urgent by the health professional providing the service.
  • The service is critical to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning.

As per the March 31 eNews, if you are employed in one of the essential services listed by Alberta Health, refer to your employer’s guidance on how OT services will be prioritized and delivered for your clients/patients/residents. If the guidance provided by your employer isn’t clear or if you have ideas for how services you provide can be prioritized and delivered to ensure client safety and mitigation of inadvertent spread of the virus, please discuss with your manager/supervisor and/or professional/clinical practice lead.

For OTs that are self-employed and/or whose employer/contracting organization is not involved in the delivery of essential services, refer to the list of guiding questions in the March 31 eNews to help you in determining if the non-essential services you are offering are truly urgent. If you deem that OT service provision is urgent, use remote means to deliver services whenever possible. Proceed with extreme caution when providing services in-person.

Virtual delivery of OT services (e.g. through telephone or videoconferencing) can continue at this time, as it does not involve close contact with clients or others. Please refer to ACOT’s Practice Advisory, as well as an guidance documents your employer has prepared, for considerations prior to initiating virtual service delivery.

More Q&A

We have had a few people reach out for clarification on past guidance. We’ve included our responses below in case anyone else has similar questions.

Q – What duties can my employer ask me to perform during this time?

A – As per the March 17 and March 20 eNews’, what is requested of you may vary based on your employer. In general, they can ask you to perform any non-restricted activity (an activity that any health provider can perform) or restricted activity that is listed in the Occupational Therapists Profession Regulation. If you do not feel competent to perform any activity you have been asked to do, you can request that your employer offer you the required training to perform the activity safely and competently.

There have been recent changes to the employment standards that may impact how much notice you are given prior to being reassigned/redeployed to perform other duties. If there are issues regarding how much notice you are given, discuss with your manager/supervisor and/or your professional/clinical practice lead.

Even if the tasks/duties you have been asked to perform don’t appear to be OT practice, you may still count those hours towards your practice hours at next year’s renewal. We trust that OTs who are redeployed will bring a valuable OT perspective to whatever duties they have been asked to perform.

Q – My client has had to move out of/can’t return to Alberta – what is required if I want to keep seeing my client(s) through remote means?

A – Further to the March 27 eNews, you are required to check with the regulatory/licensing body of the province/state/country your client is physically located in at the time of OT service provision. Registration requirements vary  as health professional regulation/licensing is determined at the provincial/state/country level. Within Canada, the OT Colleges are doing their best to expedite applications for permits in order to support continuity of care.

Q – I have moved out of/can’t return to Alberta – what is required if I want to keep seeing my client(s) through remote means?

A – Further to the March 27 eNews, you are required to check with the regulatory/licensing bodies of the province/state/country both you and your client are physically located in at the time of OT service provision. Registration requirements vary  as health professional regulation/licensing is determined at the provincial/state/country level. Within Canada, the OT Colleges are doing their best to expedite applications for permits in order to support continuity of care.

Refer to ACOT’s Practice Advisory for additional considerations when delivering services virtually across jurisdictions.

Thanks from ACOT

“Challenging” and “unprecedented” are terms we have been hearing frequently in relation to the pandemic. Echoing what our colleagues at Physiotherapy Alberta College & Association have been telling their registrants – “this is not business as usual”.  What you are being called on to do is far from usual. Each of us and/or our employers, is making on-the-spot decisions, developing new policies and procedures, researching new methods of service delivery, learning new skills – all to ensure that the delivery of OT services to the clients you serve is competent, ethical and safe.

Who your “client” is, is as diverse as the areas we know OTs are practicing in across the province. Whomever your clients are, thank-you for ensuring they are safe. We acknowledge that ensuring client safety may mean not providing OT service or delivering through alternate means. It may also mean that you are busier than ever or are being redeployed to perform unfamiliar duties. We applaud your flexibility, adaptability and commitment to doing what is best for your clients at this time.

Please take care of yourselves as well – your mental health and well-being is as important as the safety of your clients during these challenging and unprecedented times. Our thoughts are with you, your families, and all health care providers at this time.

As always, we will continue to update you with further information, as we receive it from the Government of Alberta, Alberta Health, and the Medical Officer of Health. Updates will be at least once weekly and more often if required.

Please contact us if you have any further questions. Email is the easiest way to contact us as we are working remotely– our email addresses are listed at: https://acot.ca/contact-us/