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The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has clarified its policy on treating truck drivers who cross the border from the United States into Canada for essential operations.
Founded in 1866, CPSO regulates the practice of medicine in Ontario. Doctors are required to be members of CPSO to practice medicine in Ontario.
Restrictions on cross-border travel remain in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, people providing essential services, including truck drivers who regularly cross the border to keep goods flowing, are exempt from quarantine requirements.
In recognition of the importance of essential workers, including truckers, CPSO clarified its guidance for physicians to ensure such individuals have timely access to care. According to CPSO’s updated guidance, if there is no opportunity for a physician to see a patient following a 14-day window without travel across the border or a negative COVID-19 test, the physician still can have an in-person visit with the patient if they satisfy certain safety precautions. Safety measures include isolating the patient upon arrival and using personal protective equipment.
“Recognizing that these individuals have been deemed essential workers and exempted from the quarantine and isolation rules set out by the federal government, the College is supportive of physicians exercising their clinical judgment regarding how to best care for these patients when they screen positive solely because of work-related travel,” the updated guidance states. “An immediate deferral of in-person care or redirection to another facility is not necessary in these instances provided appropriate safety precautions can be met.”
The Ontario Trucking Association welcomed CPSO’s action. In a notice issued Oct. 20, OTA said it had received reports that health care professionals were turning away essential workers who had crossed the border (unless they had already quarantined for 14 days).
“The trucking industry would like to thank CPSO for intervening in this matter,” said Lak Shoan, OTA’s director of policy and affairs. “This policy should ensure that all cross-border truck drivers receive the same medical attention as all other essential workers and Ontarians.”
As a response to the reports, OTA contacted the oversight organizations related to health sectors to request a review of the policy so that cross-border truckers who have not tested positive for COVID-19 and are not displaying symptoms can receive medical service.
Additionally, OTA advised members who have asymptomatic cross-border drivers that are still being told to quarantine for 14 days before being allowed to make an appointment to contact the association.
CPSO spokesman Joshua McLarnon said the group has been working with other professional colleges to make sure there is alignment when it comes to access.
McLarnon noted physicians still maintain the right to decline care to patients who have recently crossed the border for essential work when virtual care is not an appropriate option. However, he said CPSO strongly recommends physicians work with individuals to find a referral so they may access care.
“It’s important to note that this is not a policy change but an updated clarification to empower physicians to use their best judgment,” McLarnon told Transport Topics. “Ultimately, the final rules with respect to COVID lies with the Ministry of Health, but we are supportive of physicians exercising judgment in these circumstances to see if they can support/accommodate this population provided the right safety precautions are in place.”
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