The primary health-related story across the globe right now is undoubtedly the coronavirus, the risks it presents and how the threat is being handled. Below, we will provide an overview of what the virus means to both Canadian health practitioners and the public in general, as well as the current status of the virus in Ontario. In addition, we will look at the Quarantine Act, and what that means for Ontarians who may come into contact with the virus going forward.
The testing procedures and treatment of the coronavirus (aka 2019-nCoV) are evolving in real-time as researchers discover more about the virus. However, the government of Canada has made several recommendations for health care practitioners across the country:
What to do if a patient presents with symptoms and has recently travelled to an area where the virus is circulating (or has been in contact with someone who has):
First and foremost, it is important to keep in mind that the threat to those in Ontario is still considered to be low at this time. Please see below for more on the current status of the coronavirus in the province. There are, however, steps that peopel can take to further limit their risk of contracting the virus as they go about their lives.
Keep in mind how the virus is most commonly spread. To date, it is believed that the coronavirus is most often spread through droplets in the air after a cough or sneeze, or close contact such as touching or shaking hands, followed by touching your eyes, nose or mouth before properly washing your hands.
Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:
Wash your hands often:
Monitor your health. Be aware of the symptoms of the virus and inform your doctor immediately if you experience the following, particular if you have recently been travelling:
In addition to the above, avoid contact with anyone who is sick, and if you are sick. The best way to prevent transmission of a virus is to avoid others until you are cleared to do so. Of course, if you are sick and have reason to suspect that it may be coronavirus, you should reach out to your health care provider immediately. If you are planning on travelling in the near future, you can find more information on how to protect your health while doing so, here.
The Ministry of Health is providing daily updates with respect to the status of suspected cases of coronavirus in the province. As of today, February 6, 169 patients in Ontario have been tested for the virus. Of that number, 104 have been confirmed negative for the virus, and 3 have tested positive. 62 patients remain under investigation.
The province is continuing to proactively monitor hospitals for signs of additional coronavirus cases and is meeting with hospitals and health providers in proximity to Pearson International Airport to advise on screening measures.
The Quarantine Act was first introduced in Canada in 1872 and remained unchanged for well over 100 years. However, after the SARS outbreak in 2003, significant changes were made to address similar situations going forward.
The Act allows government officials to impose screening procedures at airports as well as isolation for those suspected to have come into contact with a virus or communicable disease. This is what will occur this week, as Canada brings close to 200 evacuees from China to an air force base in Trenton, Ontario. The evacuees will stay on the base in a hotel-like facility for a period of 14 days while they are assessed for potential infection. They will not be moved to a hospital unless they exhibit signs requiring acute medical attention.
At Wise Health Law, we provide exceptional guidance on health law matters to public hospitals, long-term care homes, and other health-care organizations across the province. Our lawyers monitor trends and developments in health so that we can provide forward-thinking legal and risk management advice to all our clients. Contact us online, or at 416-915-4234 for a consultation.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario has issued an updated Directive #2 (dated May 26, 2020) for Regulated Health Professionals in the province.
Pursuant to the updated Directive #2, all deferred non-essential and elective services by health care providers may be gradually restarted – subject to the rest of the requirements set out in the Directive.
The updated Directive #2 does not provide particularly detailed guidance to health professionals on how to proceed, likely because it applies to such a broad spectrum of health care and health professionals. It does, however, provide some principles to assist health care providers in making decisions as we enter this transitional period.
In addition to the mask and hand sanitizer shortages, Ontario’s response to COVID-19 highlights the need for more frontline health care workers. Each regulated health profession’s college responded differently, and we have discussed some of those changes in other posts to keep you apprised.
Today, we focus on the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), who set out to increase the number of available and licenced physicians out on the frontlines through certificates of registration that authorize supervised practice of short duration. The temporary licences authorize practice for 30 days.
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has affected how health professionals practice. Pharmacists across the country are not only experiencing changes in how they practice (for example, accepting emailed prescriptions, where appropriate) but the scope of their practice as well. The latter change is not permanent, although the disruptions in practice may be felt long after the COVID-19 emergency subsides.
On March 19, 2020, Health Canada issued a short-term section 56(1) exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) that would authorize pharmacists to prescribe, sell, or provide controlled substances in limited circumstances, or transfer prescriptions for controlled substances (the CDSA Exemption).