COVID-19 UPDATE - March 29, 2020

ORDER BY THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH S.32 of the HEALTH PROTECTION ACT

On March 24th, a Health Protection Act order was issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.  This order has implications for practicing occupational therapists in Nova Scotia.  Occupational therapists must understand and comply with this order.

Under this order, section 20(a) except physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, nurses and paramedics,  all self-regulated health professions engaged in private practice may provide in-person emergency or urgent care services and may provide virtual care for non-emergency/elective care within their scope of practice as established by their governing College.

What does this mean for occupational therapists?

Presently, this order directs all private practice OTs to cease in-person services, except in emergency or urgent cases.

In the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19, COTNS recommends that all OTs suspend all occupational therapy in-person services, unless such services are deemed to be urgent. OTs must continue to exercise their professional judgment to determine which cases are urgent. Services may be postponed, cancelled or provided by virtual care / telepractice if an appropriate option to meet clients' needs. If an OT does provide urgent care, the OT must adhere to infection prevention and control procedures and if appropriate and indicated in the clinical interaction, use personal protective equipment (PPE).

What is urgent/emergency care?

To guide occupational therapists, the College provides the following questions to assist with clinical decision making to determine if a clinical situation is urgent.  Hospital-based or inpatient OTs fall into this category of providing urgent services to clients.  Many occupational therapy services are non-urgent.  Urgent care services are where the risk of not receiving care at this time outweighs the risk of transmission of the virus.

1) Have you prioritized clients according to their individual risk?

2) What are the possible consequences to the client if they do not receive occupational therapy services in the immediate future?

3) Does the client present with an acute condition where postponement of care will negatively affect health outcomes in the short and in the long-term?

4) If a client does not receive occupational therapy service at this time, will they be at risk for hospitalization or an extended hospital stay?

5) Can I meet some of the client's needs using alternative means for occupational therapy service provision, via virtual care / telepractice, as a way of bridging service?

Occupational therapists may be required to justify the urgency of their services during this public health emergency.

Occupational therapists should consult the Interim Virtual Care / Telepractice Guideline when transitioning to this practice.  Further, OTs that are utilizing support personnel in their practice should consult the Guideline on Assigning of Service Components to Support Personnel.

Important Links:

1) Province of Nova Scotia Corona Virus Alerts: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/#alerts

2) Updated Health Protection Act Order link:  https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/COVID-19-Global-Order-2020-03-26.PDF

We encourage occupational therapists to reach out to the College if you require any additional clarification.

As circumstances change and new guidance is received from government, we will continue to keep you updated.  If you require additional information, please contact us.