March 16th, 2020 – Message from Dr. Anthea Lafreniere, PARO President
For some of you, the past few weeks may have been some of the most challenging of your medical careers – and, for most of us, the forthcoming weeks will likely present even greater challenges.
As President of PARO I am proud of the ways in which you, our members, have already gone above and beyond the regular call of duty, just as PARO members did during the SARS outbreak of 2003. Many of you have taken on the clinical work of colleagues who are medically vulnerable or pregnant. You have worked to find solutions to decrease the potential impact on exam-eligible colleagues. You have been willing to serve on wards and in departments that you may not typically call home, all while working safely and within your competencies. And, more than anything, you are skilled physicians who have been dedicated to providing the highest level of care to Ontario’s patients.
We know you may have questions about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your professional and educational career. Our team is working around the clock to get you the most up-to-date, expert-informed guidance we can.
We will only provide you with information that we know to be accurate. We also recognize that information we provide may change and so we will be sure to provide you with updates. Any COVID-19 related information that we provide to you will have one of two subject lines: COVID-19 Work Alerts or COVID-19 Training Alerts. In this way, you will know at a glance what you can expect from our emails.
In this message we are going to address the three most commonly asked questions that we have been receiving. The information that we provide below is the most current information and may be different than what we have communicated previously.
I’m pregnant or immunocompromised, do I need to go to work?
Listen to the advice of your treating physician. If they feel that you should be deployed in a manner that minimizes your risk of exposure to COVID-19, let your Program Director or your PGME Office know. Solutions may include moving you to a service with a low risk of exposure or placing you on a paid leave of absence if you cannot be redeployed safely. You may be required to provide a letter from your personal physician. Do not hesitate to contact PARO if you require any assistance in ensuring you’re protected.
I’ve just returned from another country, do I need to self-isolate?
This is a situation where the advice we were providing last week has evolved in light of recent announcements by the Federal Government.
We recognize that while you may have a right to travel, there are a number of other considerations you should take into account. As licensed physicians, you are an essential resource in the healthcare system. In most jurisdictions, returning from another country requires that you self-quarantine for 14 days, making you unavailable to provide care. A significant reduction in the physician workforce during this time could have devastating effects for the patient population in Ontario as well as increase the burden on our colleagues. Therefore, we urge you to be considerate and responsible about the choices you make. We know that sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that might make international travel necessary – but if you don’t need to place yourself at risk of being required to self-quarantine, then we encourage you to weigh the benefits carefully against the impact on you, your family, and the healthcare system.
If you choose to travel against the directives of the hospital and advice of the government, it is likely that you will be placed on an unpaid leave until your quarantine period has ended. If this were to happen, you would need to apply for EI during this period. Regardless, you can expect the likelihood of an interruption in earnings in the likely event you are required to self-isolate.If there are extenuating circumstances that require you to be out of the country, or if you are unable to access EI, please contact PARO.
If you traveled internationally prior to the recent Federal Government advisory, or if you were already out of the country when the advisory was issued, or if for any other reason you are directed by the hospital to self-isolate or are put under quarantine, it is PARO’s position that you should continue to be paid while you are on leave. If you are placed on an unpaid leave, please contact the PARO office so that we can determine what further steps to take. If you are placed on an unpaid leave, you should also apply for EI.
Public Health is telling me one thing but the Hospital is telling me something else – what do I do?
We are aware that some of you may have received instructions from your hospital that differ from the Public Health authority in your city regarding whether to self-isolate or to continue to go to work.
The answer is that you should follow the advice of your employer. Public Health is responsible for issuing advisories to the broader public and there may be reasons why there are different expectations of you as a health care worker.
Given the enhanced need to ensure a high volume of patients can be cared for safely during this time, hospitals are relying on their employees, including residents, to self-monitor responsibly and self-isolate if they meet the criteria established by the Hospital’s Occupational Health Office.
PARO is committed to providing you with accurate and complete information that you can rely on during this time. As I mentioned before, we will continue to message you with information that you need to know. We will work hard to ensure you only receive information from us that we know to be accurate.
Thank you for your hard work and service to the patients in this province.
Dr. Anthea Lafreniere,