April 24, 2020 – Message from Dr. Anthea Lafreniere, PARO President
I’m pleased to tell you that, in response to PARO’s concerns about protections for residents who refuse unsafe work, our employer has now provided us with Ontario Health’s recommendations for COVID-19 work refusals. One of the principles set out by Ontario Health is that, ‘no employee shall suffer any form of reprisal for refusing work he or she believes to be unsafe’.
We take this as assurance that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, our employer hospitals will not discipline any resident who refuses work that he or she believes to be unsafe.
In all of our messages to you related to PPE, we have told you that in non-urgent situations, where appropriate PPE is not provided, your right to refuse work is protected by the Workplace Occupational Health and Safety Act. What has always concerned us is that the Act specifically excludes hospital workers from the right to refuse work in situations where life-saving urgent care is required. We know some have been critical of PARO for highlighting that this language exists within the Act, have suggested we provided you with incorrect information, or worse yet, have provided you with false assurances. However, I am committed to providing you with accurate advice and will not minimize the truth, no matter how hard it may be to share, if that could put residents at risk.
However, having obtained Ontario Health’s recommendations for COVID-19 work refusals from our employer, it is our expectation that hospitals will follow the Ontario Health recommendations, and that residents will not be subject to any form of discipline or reprisal if you refuse work that you believe to be unsafe, even in situations where life-saving urgent care is required. In the event that appropriate PPE is not available, and you face any sort of discipline or reprisal for not providing care, even in life-saving situations, contact PARO immediately so that we can advise you and assist with defending you.
We have also been working with CAHO to come to an agreement on how vacations that have been cancelled or denied will be handled. Some of the things we are advocating for include that Vacation, Professional Leave, Floating Holiday, and Lieu Days are to be granted, where possible, for the duration of this academic year. We are also asking that the 2-week response time for vacation requests be reduced and that the 90-day period to take lieu days be extended.
We are working through various scenarios with CAHO, including scenarios for residents who will be continuing residency in Ontario in the next academic year as well as for those who will not be. I recognize the urgency of resolving these questions for you and we continue to impress that same urgency upon CAHO. As soon as we have reached agreement with CAHO, I will communicate it to you.
CFPC Certification Exams
If you have not already heard, Resident Doctors of Canada has been successful in their advocacy that the spring 2020 cohort will not be required to sit the SOO component of the CFPC certification exam and the oral component of the CFPC emergency medicine exam will not be required. If you pass the short answer management problem (SAMP) component you will be immediately certified.The CFPC is working to confirm possible changes to or potential refunds of examination fees. I want to extend a huge thank you to Resident Doctors of Canada for their tireless efforts to advocate for extraordinary solutions in these extraordinary times.
Full information can be found here.
We have had discussions with CAHO about additional compensation due to COVID-19 and have explored whether or not other health care providers are receiving hazard pay. The Ontario Government has stated that they will not provide hazard pay to healthcare workers. We have also verified that, other than Quebec, no other provinces are providing hazard pay or extra compensation to residents.
We are aware that the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Government have recently released updated staff physician compensation guidelines. We have been told that the guidelines do not provide hazard pay, but instead reflects that the existing fee-for-service model does not recognize the added complexity and time required to care for COVID-19 patients.
We believe that any recognition by Government that increased compensation should be provided to care for COVID-19 patients, because of the increased complexity, must also be extended to the work that residents do.
It is for this reason that we will continue to raise the issue with CAHO and monitor this situation closely.
We continue to add important information to our COVID-19 web page as updates become available, so please check the site often. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org