COVID-19 Information for Members
March 17, 2020
Reminder: Office Closure
The College’s offices are closed, and staff are working remotely. While we are endeavouring to continue to handle all routine College matters, we anticipate some unavoidable delays. With the office closed, we are unable to accept delivery of courier packages and expect delays in mail delivery. We ask that whenever possible, correspondence with staff be by email with documents attached.
COVID-19 Information on College Website
The College is creating a webpage to provide members with up to date College information. This page will be available through a link in the “News and Announcements” section on the College homepage (www.cpo.on.ca). As new information is gathered it will be added to this page.
An Introduction to Telehealth
In June 2017, the College was privileged to have Dr. Christine Korol, R.Psych. at our Barbara Wand Seminar in Ethics, Standards and Conduct. She presented on “Using Technology Safely and Ethically in Clinical Practice” and “Best Practices and Methods in Online Treatment”. The webcast of this day is available on the College website at: Barbara Wand Seminar Archives
Dr. Korol has informed the College that, in the face of COVID-19 and in response to many questions she has received from those quickly trying to get up to speed on telehealth, she has updated her online presentations and posted three videos on her YouTube channel. Dr. Korol notes that this is a three-part introduction to online services in which she covers many topics regarding ethics and online practice. The videos may be found at: OnlineTherapy: Intro to Ethics and Best Practice C19 Edition. Members may find this information to be of assistance in considering if and how to move to more online services. Note, these videos are Continuing Professional Development and may be counted in both Category B3 – Self Directed Learning and also counted toward one’s required Ethics and Jurisprudence CPD.
Release of Personal Health Information to Public Health Officials
The College has received questions from members regarding their confidentiality obligations with respect to COVID-19, should they be asked by public health officials to identify patients who may have been exposed to the virus. The College anticipates that it would be relatively rare for a treating psychological associate or psychologist to be the first to have this information from an infected patient. It is more likely that the healthcare professional, usually a physician, who administered the test and received the lab results would have reported the infection to the public health officials, as they are already doing.
If confronted with such a request, the College would strongly advise that one obtain independent legal advice. To assist members in their conversations with their lawyer, the following information is provided.
There are exceptions to the duty of confidentiality set out in the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA) regarding situations into which the current COVID-19 pandemic may fit.
Disclosures for health or other programs
39 (2) A health information custodian may disclose personal health information about an individual,
(a) to the Chief Medical Officer of Health or a medical officer of health within the meaning of the Health Protection and Promotion Act if the disclosure is made for a purpose of that Act;
(a.1) to the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion if the disclosure is made for a purpose of the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion Act, 2007; or
(b) to a public health authority that is similar to the persons described in clause (a) and that is established under the laws of Canada, another province or a territory of Canada or other jurisdiction, if the disclosure is made for a purpose that is substantially similar to a purpose of the Health Protection and Promotion Act. 2004, c. 3, Sched. A, s. 39 (2); 2007, c. 10, Sched. K, s. 32.
One may be able to provide such information, if one is satisfied that the request is made for one of the purposes noted above.
Disclosures related to risks
40 (1) A health information custodian may disclose personal health information about an individual if the custodian believes on reasonable grounds that the disclosure is necessary for the purpose of eliminating or reducing a significant risk of serious bodily harm to a person or group of persons. 2004, c. 3, Sched. A, s. 40 (1).
This provision may also permit disclosure.
It is important to note that both of these provisions are permissive, that is, one may make the disclosure, but this is not an obligation.
One may find that the Chief Medical Officer of Health has the power to make certain Orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, 1990. Such an Order could compel one to provide certain kinds of information in such circumstances. As noted above, if confronted with questions regarding the release of personal health information as related to COVID-19, we strongly recommend members obtain legal advice.
Links to Official Websites
Members may obtain up to date information from official websites including:
- Ontario Ministry of Health (www.Ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus)
- Public Health Agency of Canada (www.canada.ca/en/public-health.html)
- Government of Canada (www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html)
R. Morris, Ph.D., C.Psych.
Registrar & Executive Director