An End to a Busy Summer
As summer comes to an end, I’m pleased to share with you the latest issue of Dialogue and an update on the whirlwind of activities that have been taking place here at the CPSO.
For the past two years, our cover stories for Dialogue have explored and raised awareness about racism and discrimination in many forms against patients. This edition’s cover story explores the issue of “Patient Bias” — meaning discrimination or racism expressed against physicians. Physicians are owed respect in the workplace and deserve to be in an environment free of biases, stereotypes, racism and discrimination. Patient bias, unfortunately, is a common occurrence that perhaps you or your colleagues have experienced. I hope this article sheds some light and offers some advice on how to handle these situations.
On September 1st, the Ontario Physicians and Surgeons Discipline Tribunal (OPSDT) officially launched, along with its new website. The OPSDT has an arms-length relationship with the CPSO and is a neutral, independent, administrative tribunal that adjudicates allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence of Ontario physicians made by CPSO. I genuinely believe these changes will improve timeliness and continue to ensure a fair and consistent discipline process.
The College is moving forward with further improvements to our Quality Program. We are now in the process of recruiting a small, dedicated team of approximately 20 assessors who will conduct peer and practice assessments on behalf of the CPSO. This is a very exciting opportunity for physicians who have a solid background in quality oversight and want to get involved in profession-led regulation.
The pandemic created a new world of providing virtual care to patients. It forced us to rapidly adopt and expand virtual care across a very broad range of health care encounters. Virtual care has its benefits — convenience being one of those benefits. However, we know there are limits to what can be done virtually and the standard of care is often difficult to meet in a virtual care environment. We are now at a different stage of the pandemic with the vast majority of Ontarians fully vaccinated and PPE widely available. While physicians are ultimately responsible for determining the appropriateness of providing virtual care in the circumstances presented, it is important to remember that the standard of care must always be met. This includes ensuring that a virtual visit includes a comprehensive assessment, diagnosis and treatment plan, as it would if that patient were seen in-person.
At our recent meeting, Council approved the new draft policy specifically providing guidance on virtual care. It is now ready for consultation. The timing of this policy is critical as we begin to determine how providing care virtually can work best in the future. Physician input from all areas of medicine will be essential in ensuring we get this right. Please participate in our consultation underway now.
I would be remiss if I did not briefly touch on the COVID-19 vaccine medical exemption guidance we recently shared, which received widespread attention. With the vaccine passport coming into effect in the province and many organizations mandating vaccinations, we, as the regulator, felt it was important to provide clear direction on medical exemptions, so both the public and those providing care understood the rare circumstances for which an exemption would be warranted. The evidence is clear that for the vast majority of patients, the available vaccines are safe and effective, and remain our best defense in ending this pandemic. I know that many of you are having in-depth discussions with your patients regarding vaccine safety and medical exemptions, and I want to thank you for taking the time to have these important conversations. This pandemic has been extremely draining on everyone — but especially those on the front lines. Please take some time for yourself and your loved ones.