COVID-19 Pandemic Information and Updates

COVID-19 Pandemic Information and Updates2020-05-15T14:12:00-06:00

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES FOR
COVID-19 ARE IN PLACE

ACSLPA staff are working remotely and the physical office is closed to visitors.

Email is the easiest way to contact staff with your questions.
Please visit the ‘Contact ACSLPA‘ page to access staff contact information.

When in doubt, email admin@acslpa.ca and your email will be forwarded to the appropriate staff member.

Ensure the use of reputable information when making decisions about your practice and personal situation. See below for information relevant to ACSLPA members. Be sure to be aware of the information specific to Alberta and Canada.

Providing Services During a Pandemic2020-05-26T15:35:09-06:00

The Advisory Statement was updated on May 15, 2020 to include information received by the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Check back frequently for changes.

Advisory Statement: Providing Services During a Pandemic (May 15, 2020)

Personal Protective Equipment – Ordering Process2020-05-04T11:11:02-06:00

Request Process for ACSLPA Members who Work in Private Practice

Hazard assessments are required under Occupational Health and Safety to identify existing and potential hazards related to COVID-19. Where possible, hazards should be eliminated. If a hazard cannot be eliminated, then it must be controlled. Appropriate hazard control (from most to least effective) includes (but is not limited to):

  1. Eliminating the hazard where possible:
    • Limiting services that are not essential or not urgent/critical.
  2. Substituting services:
    • Providing services by a different means other than face-to-face (e.g., virtual care/telepractice/curbside pickup).
  3. Using engineering controls:
    1. Maintaining physical separation of 2m between people.
    2. Using physical barriers where physical distancing cannot be maintained (e.g., plastic/glass barriers).
  4. Using administrative controls:
    • Directing clients to come alone (or with only 1 caregiver).
    • Hand hygiene/washing.
    • Respiratory etiquette (covering coughs and sneezes).
  5. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of equipment and commonly touched surfaces:
    • Cleaning and disinfecting is a two-step process. Use a “wipe-twice” method to clean and disinfect. Wipe surfaces with a cleaning agent to clean off soil and wipe again with a disinfectant.
    • Develop and implement procedures for increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting.
    • More information: https://www.acslpa.ca/covid-19-pandemic-information/decision-making-support-guide (see section on “Steps to Take When Seeing a Client Face-to-Face”).
  6. PPE:
    • The requirement varies based on risk of exposure to COVID-19 and on the activities being performed.
    • All available controls should be put into place to ensure PPE is used sparingly and to support global supply.
    • If your normal supply chain has been exhausted, you may place an order through the Government of Alberta: https://xnet.gov.ab.ca/ppe.
      • Request must be made for a 2-week supply of PPE.
      • Only one request can be submitted per clinic (requests must be pooled at the organization level).
      • Fulfillment of orders is subject to available stock.

*Note: members who work within AHS, Covenant Health, AHS-contracted service providers, primary care networks or physician offices, will have PPE provided through AHS.

More information:
https://www.acslpa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID19_InfectionPreventionControlMeasures_V2.pdf
https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/covid-19-workplace-guidance-for-business-owners.pdf

Premier Kenney’s Announcement – April 30, 20202020-05-04T11:16:35-06:00

April 30, 2020

Alberta’s Premier has announced that:

  • AHS employees will start transitioning to provide more elective and non-critical services, and
  • Non-AHS health professionals can start providing non-essential and non-critical services starting sometime after
    May the 4th.

It is our current understanding that members should not provide non-essential or non-critical health services until several conditions have been met which include:

  • new guidelines for reopened services must be published by colleges,
  • employers and health professionals must have a sufficient supply of cleaners, sanitizing supplies and personal protective equipment to provide services, and
  • employers must be able to meet Occupational Health and Safety requirements for safe work in a COVID-19 environment.

The situation is evolving quickly and ACSLPA is learning more about Alberta Health’s needs and the government’s expectations. We are working quickly to provide members with the guidance and support they need and updates will be published to members a soon as possible.

IPC Guidance for Private Clinics2020-04-24T15:02:40-06:00
Notice to ACSLPA Members in Private Practice – Public Health Restrictions on Businesses and Workplaces2020-04-14T14:55:11-06:00
Decision-making Support Guide2020-04-14T15:00:25-06:00
Practicing During a Pandemic2020-04-06T12:53:42-06:00

ACSLPA provided an initial resource on COVID-19 on March 16, 2020 (https://www.acslpa.ca/covid-19-information/). The following is intended to provide members with further guidance.

The ACSLPA office has been receiving many calls from members regarding SLP and audiologist practice during this pandemic. Most calls have been centred on two main topics: scope of practice as related to participation in nasal swabbing (COVID-19 testing) and whether it’s safe to continue to provide services (and by which medium).  For information related to nasopharyngeal swabs, click here.

Service to Clients

Note that we all continue to take our guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health/Public Health in Alberta. At the time of writing (March 19, 2020 10:30am) there has not been a directive for SLPs and audiologists to discontinue their services and clinics/practices can remain open at the owner’s discretion. It is recognized that direction could change and members should stay abreast of information from public health daily.

Under the current Public Health Emergency, the Government of Alberta has the authority to declare if health-care facilities, including SLP and audiology clinics, must close. ACSLPA defers to experts in public health and recognizes their knowledge and expertise in this area.

SLPs and audiologists have always had a responsibility to help clients make informed decisions about their care. This responsibility is even more important now. ACSLPA members also have a responsibility to direct clients (and themselves) to reputable information. The sites included here are providing key information to Canadians and the world and are reputable sources of information.

Alberta Health
Alberta Health Services
Public Health Agency of Canada
World Health Organization

For those members in a position to make a choice, the decision to continue to provide services should be made carefully, weighing the risks to clients and members alike. Some ACSLPA members may choose to discontinue services (i.e., those in private practice) if it’s appropriate to do so. In the case of COVID-19 the key public health focus is on limiting the spread of the disease between individuals. Members should be thinking about public safety in all situations. SLPs and audiologists must think about social distancing (and whether you can still accommodate services) and infection prevention and control practices and how you can adhere to enhanced environmental cleaning practices. Further considerations:

Infection Prevention Control

IPC measures must be very rigorous. The ACSLPA Standard of Practice 4.1 Safety and Risk Management states that regulated members “practice in compliance with occupational health, safety and risk management legislation and requirements, in all practice settings.” The legislation and requirements referred to includes the new ACLSPA  Advisory Statement Infection Prevention Control: Single-Use and Reusable Medical Devices and corresponding standards developed by Alberta Health (links included within the Advisory Statement). Note that toys and similar objects when used for the purposes of assessment and treatment, fall within this advisory statement.

Some key points regarding environmental cleaning include:

  • COVID-19 is currently thought to be spread through contact with respiratory droplets, either following a cough or sneeze, or from contact with contaminated surfaces where droplets reside.
  • There is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Cleaning refers to the removal of visible dirt and debris. Disinfection inactivates disease producing micro-organisms. Effective environmental cleaning for COVID-19 requires both cleaning and disinfection. More information is included in the Alberta Health Standards for IPC (see the ACSLPA Advisory Statement for links).
  • As part of routine clinical practice, SLPs and audiologists should already be cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment between clients.
  • Increased daily cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, staff rooms, desktops, washrooms, telephones, keyboards/mice, and shared pens.
  • Removing items that cannot be easily cleaned (e.g., newspapers, magazines, stuffed toys) from waiting rooms and shared staff areas is advised.
  • For more information, see the Government of Canada recommendations for community-based measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Occupational Health and Safety

ACSLPA members who are also business owners/operators should be considering a business continuity plan (how your business will continue to function in a crisis). Note that business owners are subject to Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, Code and Regulations (https://www.alberta.ca/ohs-legislation.aspx). This means that they must create a safe work environment and provide appropriate controls to address identified risks in the workplace. Meeting these requirements includes educating employees about risks, providing supplies necessary to mitigate risks, and encouraging appropriate use of supplies and behaviours to mitigate the risk of spread of COVID-19. Examples may include:

  • Provision of PPE,
  • Providing facilities for and encouraging frequent hand hygiene,
  • Providing supplies for environmental cleaning, and
  • Ensuring staff are aware of relevant sick leave policies, encouraging those who are ill to stay home.

Employers need to consider implementing the measures suggested by Health Canada to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as appropriate for their work environment. These measures include enabling remote working where possible, staggering start and end times to reduce the need to travel at peak times and increasing space between workstations and treatment tables.

Employers should also keep abreast of information through the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta regarding employment and wage supports available due to COVID-19.

Posted: March 19, 2020


Thank you to Physiotherapy Alberta College+Association for permission to utilize information from their website for the development of this information.

Telepractice – Information for ACSLPA Members2020-04-06T12:53:58-06:00

In the face of COVID-19, social distancing and a societal response to preventing illness, we are pleased to see so many members considering other options for serving clients.

A number of members have contacted the office looking for information about the viability of using telepractice (telehealth, videoconferencing, telephone) with clients.

ACSLPA is not able to endorse or recommend one platform over another. Not all platforms are created equally. Regulated members will need to determine if a particular platform meets their needs.

  • When choosing a platform, you might want to think about cost, features available (including privacy options), the client’s home technology and the IT supports available to you. You should have good rationale for your choice.
  • You can anticipate needing to be able to troubleshoot online, during sessions.
  • What services can you reasonably offer? While home/parent consultation may lend itself nicely to telepractice, other services might need modifications.

Regardless of the platform you choose to use, be mindful of:

  • Speed of transmission – bandwidth in the province may be particularly stressed right now therefore video may show increased pixelating/freezing and audio may be intermittently affected.
  • Privacy (i.e., encryption needs and/or potential hacking) and security settings.
  • Dedicated space (location) – ensuring content can’t be overheard by others for both yourself and your client.
  • Facilitation/support on the remote end – does someone need to be available to support the client with their technology or activities?

Informed consent – members are expected to obtain informed consent from their clients when there is a significant change in service (including a change to using telepractice). Consent does not need to be in writing – it can be verbal. In all cases, consent must be documented. The process of informed consent should include discussion about additional risks associated with telepractice services (which includes changes to privacy considerations and types of services that can be delivered in this manner).

ACSLPA has both a standard and a guideline related to telepractice. These documents can be accessed at the following links:

https://www.acslpa.ca/members-applicants/key-college-documents/standards-of-practice/1-7-virtual-care/

https://www.acslpa.ca/members-applicants/key-college-documents/guidelines-protocols/

ACSLPA’s Informed Consent for Service guideline is also available at https://www.acslpa.ca/members-applicants/key-college-documents/guidelines-protocols/

Posted: March 17, 2020

Telepractice FAQs – Pandemic Edition2020-04-06T12:54:20-06:00

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, public health orders are in place limiting face-to-face interactions. Many ACSLPA members are moving to virtual care to continue to serve clients.

The answers to common questions related to telepractice during the pandemic are included here. If you have unanswered questions, please contact dpp@acslpa.ca.

Click here for FAQs

Telepractice Resources2020-05-04T10:32:09-06:00
COVID-19 Information2020-04-01T15:09:21-06:00

A public health pandemic has been declared in relation to Coronavirus (COVID-19). Most of us have never seen a public health crisis such as this and it can feel overwhelming and scary. There not only is a lot of information available, there is also a lot of misinformation making its way through informal channels such as social media. It is imperative that ACSLPA members keep themselves abreast of rapidly changing information as it may affect practice and how we conduct ourselves as individuals.

ACSLPA members should utilize reputable information when making decisions about their practice and personal situation. See the Resources section below for some sites that members might want to access for up-to-date information. Be sure to be aware of the information specific to Alberta and Canada.

Members should be sure to follow the instructions provided by Alberta’s Public Health officials. As the information is changing rapidly, there are a few key things to keep in mind (which are not expected to change).

  • Stay at home if you are feeling unwell.
  • Practice Hand Hygiene. While always important, hand hygiene must be a priority at this time. Use soap and water to wash your hands, and if that isn’t available, use hand sanitizer. Instructions for handwashing can be found here: https://www.who.int/gpsc/tools/GPSC-HandRub-Wash.pdf
  • Practice Respiratory Hygiene. Cough/sneeze into a tissue and immediately dispose of that tissue and then wash your hands. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow (away from your hands).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Practice Social Distancing. This means staying 1-2 metres away from others. It means staying away from large gatherings.
  • Stay informed.

SLPs and audiologists will need to follow the direction of their employers regarding the services they provide or are expected to provide. They may be called upon to work in a different capacity or to do different work than is normal. This is a societal response to this pandemic and all individuals have a role to play to protect fellow Albertans and Canadians.

SLPs and audiologists will need to make decisions about whether services will continue to clients. As it stands currently (March 16, 2020 at 12:00), SLPs and audiologists should weigh the risks in a responsible way. Determining the risk to clients and the risks to the provider will both need to be taken into account when making these decisions. Employing agencies will also be providing direction to their staff.

Virtual Care (Telepractice) may be a viable option for ongoing services. More information can be found in ACSLPA Standard 1.7 Virtual Care and in the ACSLPA Telepractice Guideline. ACSLPA members will need to consider if they are positioned to provide virtual care appropriately, including the implementation of appropriate safeguards when sending/transmitting information virtually and how documentation can be performed.

Infection Prevention and Control

ACSLPA members must remain vigilant in their infection prevention and control (IPC) practices at this time. For more specific information, refer to the new ACSLPA Advisory Statement: Infection Prevention Control: Reusable and Single-Use Medical Devices. The advisory statement includes links to the Alberta Health standards which have been adopted by ACSLPA. Note that for our purposes, toys and similar objects are considered medical devices and need to be cleaned and disinfected according to the Alberta Health standards.

Business Continuity

ACSLPA

ACSLPA has a business continuity plan that will ensure core services can continue to function even if there is a shut-down of the office or if staff are required to be away. All ACSLPA staff are equipped to work remotely and ACSLPA can continue to provide practice advice to members during this unusual time. Some less urgent pieces of work may be put on hold if needed until things settle down. Note that it may take longer than usual for staff to respond to routine enquiries as they may be busy responding to critical questions/issues that are arising. It will be easiest to reach staff by email rather than by phone.

Members

Members who operate private practices or employing agencies may want to be thinking about their own business continuity plan. The following resource may help you in your planning.

Canadian Centre for Organizational Health and Safety: Business Continuity Plan: Infectious Diseases

Resources

Members may want to access the following websites for information, in addition to their local news channels/stations and municipal websites.

Albert Health
Alberta Health Services
Public Health Agency of Canada
World Health Organization

Posted: March 16, 2020

Memo Re: ACSLPA Members Performing Nasopharyngeal Swabs2020-04-01T15:19:59-06:00

Memo from ACSLPA to Alberta Health Services and ACSLPA Members

To:         Alberta Health Services

From:   Michael Neth, ACSLPA Registrar and CEO

CC:        ACSLPA Members

Date:    March 17, 2020

Re:       ACSLPA Members Performing Nasopharyngeal Swabs


Comments:

ACSLPA has been asked by Alberta Health Services and others to provide an opinion on the capacity for regulated ACSLPA members to undertake nasopharyngeal swabs. Although nasopharyngeal swabbing is not part of ACSLPA members’ typical range of practice activities, consideration for this change is motivated by the exceptional need for competent practitioners who can undertake this activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Performing a nasopharyngeal swab is a restricted activity in accordance with the Government Organization Act and is therefore regulated under the Health Professions Act and the Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists Profession Regulation (SLPAPR).

Position Statement: There is no legal or regulatory barrier that would prevent a member on the speech-language pathologist (SLP) general register from performing a nasopharyngeal swab as long as the individual is sufficiently competent to perform the activity. SLPs on the general register are specifically permitted by section 14(1)(b) of the SLPAPR to engage in the restricted activity “insert or remove instruments or devices beyond the point in the nasal passages where they normally narrow”, which would encompass nasopharyngeal swabbing. Audiologists are not authorized by the SLPAPR to perform nasopharyngeal swabs.

Advice to Employers: Employers should be aware that nasopharyngeal swabbing is not a common activity undertaken by SLPs in Alberta and so regulated ACSLPA members will require appropriate training and supports in order to develop sufficient knowledge and skill to perform this activity competently. As highly educated and conscientious health professionals, many SLPs are likely well-suited to undertake this activity once sufficiently trained. Regulated ACSLPA members have a professional obligation to decline work that they are not competent to perform. Employers can verify the registration status of SLPs by visiting www.acslpa.ca and clicking the “Verify Registration” link.

Advice to ACSLPA Members: Although this is a new activity for most SLPs, this is a truly unprecedented situation in which the greater good calls all health professionals, and indeed all people, to contribute as they are able in order to manage and hopefully stop the spread of COVID-19. Regulated ACSLPA members have a professional obligation to decline work that they are not competent to perform, however, they also have a professional responsibility to consider the public interest and undertake all reasonable steps to become competent before making a conscientious decision to decline the task. ACSLPA members seeking support in making conscientious decisions can contact the College at www.acslpa.ca/the-college/staff-directory/.

Michael Neth
Registrar and CEO

Posted: March 17, 2020

Bookmark this page and check back frequently as more information will be released and provided as the situation unfolds.

ACSLPA Members
Update Your Contact Information 

It is important for ACSLPA to have current contact information for all regulated audiologists and SLPs during the current health crisis. If your situation has changed in recent weeks please make sure we have your most current contact information.

Log into your profile to change your contact information so you do not miss any important communications from ACSLPA and so we can contact you if needed.