May 25, 2020
This information letter is to briefly update you on the status of psychological practice in British Columbia, and of my practice in particular, relating to COVID-19 management.
For the past eight weeks psychologists in BC have been directed to suspend in-person services and to provide virtual care wherever possible, except for rare exceptions as specified by the Public Health Officer. With recent announcements from Premier Horgan and Dr. Bonnie Henry, psychologists can begin to resume in-person practice in a way that promotes safe care to clients and continues to prevent the spread of the virus. Our office will be attending to the physical environment to ensure best infection and prevention control practices are in place. If you do acquire any infection in spite of our best efforts to prevent it, we cannot be held liable for this outcome, as there is no way to guarantee safety absolutely.
In any event, the on-going use of virtual contact (ZOOM, etc.), or telephone, may be the predominant option given the College directive that, “In-person services must only proceed when the anticipated benefits of such services outweigh the risk to the client/patient, the health-care provider, and the broader community.”
In deciding to meet in-person, we can consider the following:
- The acuity / severity of your symptoms
- Functional impairment or impact of your symptoms
- Impact of virtual-care versus in-person care (i.e., risks and benefits)
- Duration of potential wait-time for in-person care
While in-person contact provides the richness of non-verbal communication and a safe place to work through issues, we can collaboratively evaluate your needs and circumstances to decide what the safest mode of care may be. The literature indicates that virtual care can be an effective mode of support and intervention.
CONSENT RELATING TO CONTACT TRACING
Should we decide to meet in person, a new directive has been provided to address potential confidentiality limitations related to Contact Tracing. Clients who participate in in-person services are advised of, and provide their acknowledgement of, my obligation to provide contact information to appropriate health authorities for contact tracing when required. That situation could arise when a psychologist or client tests positive for, or when another client who has attended the same physical space or any other contact of the psychologist has tested positive for COVID-19.
In the meantime, please do your best to remain healthy. If you have any concerns that you are unwell, you are advised to avoid contact with others and seek medical advice if necessary. Supports include 811, healthlinkbc.ca, and your family physician. There is also a self-screening tool available at http://bc.thrive.healthy/covid19/en that can help you decide if you may require further testing.
If we decide to have in-person appointments, please consider the following:
1) If you are feeling unwell, please make sure that you are looking after yourself, that you avoid social contact, and that you do not hesitate to contact me to cancel or reschedule your appointment. As before, you certainly will not be billed for such changes or “lose your place” in terms of rescheduling once you feel well.
2) The practice load will be reduced such that the number of individuals in our space will rarely be more than four or five (including clinicians), working in separate offices. It is recommended that you plan your visit such that we are not relying on the waiting area. You should wait in your vehicle, or in the general area in front of the building, until a few moments before your appointment.
3) High-touch surfaces in the building that are beyond our direct control will include the front doors, elevator, and public restroom area. Please feel free to use the stairs, to stagger the use of the elevator, and to use hand sanitizer when you arrive. The building hallway is also somewhat narrow, and we encourage you to be mutually respectful of others in their comings and goings from our floor.
4) We will continue to take precautions within our immediate office space including daily cleaning and even more frequent cleaning for high-touch surfaces. We will maintain social distancing practices and abstain from handshakes or close proximity. We may end appointments a few moments early in order to maintain cleaning practices.
5) Plexiglass or other barriers are not practical within our setting. We will do our best to keep at least two meters between us and to ensure good ventilation of our workspace. We will not be sharing pens or tools.
6) Please allow us to open all of our doors for you as that will reduce contact with common touch areas. If you would be more comfortable wearing a face mask you may wish to bring one with you, or we can supply one. We will not be wearing masks as a standard precaution in our offices, unless specifically directed to do so by Public Health directive.
7) We shall endeavor to follow the best practices promulgated by our public health officer and our professional colleges. However, we reserve the right to reduce the availability of in-person sessions again in the future, if we determine that infection risks have escalated in our communities.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. As you can appreciate, there is much in terms of information and guidelines to move us to our “new normal”, certainly much more than can be contained in this summary. My goal is to continue to be mindful of safety and risk, but to also focus on wellness and overall good physical, psychological, and social well-being.
Galia Artzy, Ph.D. R.Psych