What kind of mask do I need to wear?
ACSLPA members are required to wear masks that meet Health Canada specifications regardless of practice setting/environment. This means you need a medical-grade mask (e.g., procedural mask). Look for an ASTM or EN rating on the mask [box]. More information on Health Canada approved products is available at https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/medical-devices/authorized.html.
What masks does ACSLPA recommend or endorse?
ACSLPA doesn’t endorse any particular brand of mask. ACSLPA members should ensure they wear a mask that meets Health Canada specifications.
Can I wear a face shield instead of a mask?
This depends. If you work in a school, the direction from the Chief Medical Officer of Health has been that a face shield doesn’t replace a mask and a mask would need to be worn with the face shield. However, Alberta Health Services has issued guidance about the use of a face shield instead of a mask in certain circumstances. ACSLPA’s guidance refers back to the AHS information and hence members could wear a face shield instead of a mask in particular situations. As stated by AHS, a face shield can be worn only when:
- Continuous masking interferes with the efficacy of intervention or significantly impairs the interaction, for example:
- significantly interferes with communication such as caring for patients with communication or cognitive challenges where visualization of the healthcare provider’s mouth and face is essential to meet care needs;
- patients who have significant negative or emotional response to healthcare providers wearing a mask.
- all other relevant recommendations are being followed, e.g., screening protocols, physical distancing, routine practices, e.g., point of care risk assessment (PCRA), hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, and any additional precautions.
A mask should always be considered as the first best option. A face shield would only be used for specific clients, in specific situations as noted above and when clients are not COVID-19 positive and do not have symptoms.
Can I use a mask with a transparent window?
This depends on whether the mask meets Health Canada specifications. ACSLPA members will need to take some time and diligence to investigate the masks they plan to purchase to ensure they meet these specifications.
What about Clearmask? Can they be used?
The Clearmask website provides information indicating that their mask meets the Health Canada specifications (members should confirm this through the company’s website or by contacting the company directly) and therefore could be used. Bear in mind that these masks are disposable and may be cost prohibitive. That said, there may be ways to adjust your caseload to use fewer of these masks (for example, you might be able to schedule all your articulation clients in one or two days per week). More information on Health Canada approved products is available at https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/medical-devices/authorized.html.
Procedure masks are expensive, how can we minimize cost?
The process of continuous masking may help to reduce costs. Continuous masking means that you would don a mask in the morning and wear it continuously until you need to take it off for lunch. After lunch you would don a new mask. This would mean you wear only 2 masks for the day.
What about transparent barriers (Plexiglas). Can these be used in place of a mask?
ACSLPA has provided the guidance that a transparent barrier could be used in those specific situations where a mask cannot be used. That said, a transparent barrier needs to meet size requirements. Basically, the size needs to be large enough to be 30 cm from the mid-line of the face (~nose) in all directions (at least 2 feet wide x 2 feet tall). The size also needs to take into account movement (we rarely sit/stand without moving) to continue to ensure for the 30 cm in all directions. In addition, you need to take into account the tallest and shortest users (the barrier needs to account for the height of children and the height of the tallest practitioner). Barriers need to be cleaned and disinfected between each client.
I’m in private practice. Can I have my clients sign a waiver so we don’t have to wear a mask at their appointment? Some families indicate they’re a “no mask” household and ask for a waiver indicating that they won’t sue me if they get COVID-19.
Generally speaking, a waiver may help support the practitioner from legal action. However, should a complaint be filed against you with the college, the waiver will not help prevent a finding of unprofessional conduct. Ultimately, as regulated members, you are expected to comply with ACSLPA’s advisory statement. Non-compliance may be considered unprofessional conduct. In all cases, you would want to consult with a lawyer before initiating the use of a waiver.
What if I choose not to follow ACSLPA’s advisory statement?
Members are expected to comply with ACSLPA advisory statements. If you choose not to follow ACSLPA’s requirements, a complaint could be filed against you. Further to this, there may be implications for your professional liability insurance coverage and/or outcomes of a hearing (e.g., https://www.sac-oac.ca/system/files/resources/COVID-19_Considerations_When_Resuming_Practice_May_2020.pdf).
Do I need to follow ACSLPA’s guidance or can I follow the rules that my employer has set out for PPE?
ACSLPA’s guidance is set out in the advisory statement “Providing Services During a Pandemic.” This guidance is considered the minimum standard that ACSLPA members must follow. In some cases, an employer will have higher standards. When this happens, the ACSLPA member will need to meet both the ACSLPA guidance and their employer’s guidance. In cases where the employer has fewer or more relaxed standards, ACSLPA members must still follow the ACSLPA guidance as a minimum.
I work for a school division. Who is my regulatory body?
SLPs and audiologists are regulated under the Health Professions Act and ACSLPA is your regulatory body. We are health care practitioners first and foremost. Regardless of practice setting/environment, ACSLPA members are bound by the ACSLPA Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice and any advisory statements put forth by ACSLPA. Compliance with these key college documents is not optional.
Who is responsible for buying my PPE/masks?
This will depend on your employment. If you are an employee (hired by an agency), then typically it is the employer’s responsibility to purchase the necessary equipment. If you are a private practitioner, you will be responsible for purchasing your own PPE. Likewise, if you are a private practitioner who is “contracted to” a particular agency (but not hired by that agency as an employee), then you are likely responsible to purchase your own PPE.
Working in a school environment
I work in a school. Can I wear a cloth mask?
It depends. If you are working with clients in a professional capacity, then you must wear a mask that meets the Health Canada specifications. However, if you are simply moving about the school, in staff-only areas, or otherwise removed from clients, a cloth mask can be used.
I work in a school and some of my health colleagues are allowed to wear a cloth mask. Why can’t I?
While we recognize that there are differences between ACSLPA’s masking requirements and the requirements imposed on some other professionals and school staff, we do require that ACSLPA members wear a mask that meets Health Canada specifications when working with clients.
We believe this will best protect the public and you as practitioners (as these masks will offer some protection to you as well as your clients). This will be particularly helpful when working with children who are not required to wear a mask. In addition, this ensures the guidance remains consistent for all ACSLPA members, regardless of their work setting. It’s important to keep in mind that things are fluid and we’ll update guidance as deemed necessary. Keep your eyes to the ACSLPA website to make sure you’re viewing the most recent information.
Can I wear a face shield in place of a face mask when practicing in a school?
It is ACSLPA’s position that face shields can be worn in clinical and school settings under specific conditions when it is necessary for the delivery of effective professional services and if it can be done in a manner that protects client and practitioner safety. ACSLPA members should only wear face shields in accordance with our guidance to members which is available in the ACSLPA Advisory Statement “Providing Services during a Pandemic” (see section G.6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It is our understanding that this practice does not violate CMOH Order 33-2020 because it is consistent with and exceeds the minimum requirements laid out in section 8(f) of the Order. However, different interpretations exist and so consistent with ACSLPA’s guidance on the use of face shields, regulated members should confirm that this practice does not violate their employer’s minimum policies or standards for the prevention of COVID-19 transmission.