Sask. doctors without COVID-19 shots must tell patients under new directive

·3 min read
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan expects doctors who provide in-person care and who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to declare their immunization status to their patients.  (Getty Images - image credit)
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan expects doctors who provide in-person care and who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to declare their immunization status to their patients. (Getty Images - image credit)

Patients in Saskatchewan have the right to know if their physician is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a new directive from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS).

The directive affects doctors who provide in-person care and who work in "service delivery locations outside of the Saskatchewan Health Authority," for example outside of hospitals.

"It's really a patient safety issue," said Bryan Salte, a lawyer with the college and associate registrar.

"The science, I think, is really quite clear that people who are unvaccinated pose a greater risk than people who are vaccinated. So it's a question of patients having the appropriate information to make informed decisions."

The CPSS council implemented the directive during a meeting last weekend, said Salte. Emails have since been sent out to all physicians in the province.

The expectation for doctors to declare their vaccination status if they are not fully immunized will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency in Saskatchewan regarding the pandemic, according to the message of the CPSS to its members.

Informing patients before they meet the physician

Patients need to be informed about the unvaccinated status of a doctor before the appointment is booked, according to Salte.

If a person walks into a clinic without an appointment, office staff would have to tell them if the available physician was not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Salte said the college also encourages unvaccinated doctors to "make the patient aware of any alternative measures that they're taking to provide protection." This includes personal protective equipment for both patient and doctor.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has its own requirements for doctors working in hospitals. The agency requires all of its health care workers to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, according to its website.

"The issue that we are trying to deal with is that vacuum that exists or existed … for our patients who present to physicians, clinics outside of a hospital," said Salte.

CBC
CBC

College has no authority to prevent unvaccinated doctors from working, says lawyer

The CPSS has no ability to check the vaccination status of all 2,600 doctors in the province, said Salte.

"I'm not sure that we would have the authority to say, you cannot work," he said.

"We are not their employer, we are their regulatory body."

Most doctors who work outside of hospitals are private business people and independent practitioners, said the college's legal counsel.

As in other cases, the regulatory authority will rely on patients to come forward if they have concerns about their physicians not following the directive.

"Most likely, if this was to come to the college, it would come as a result of a patient complaint," said Salte

The CPSS would follow the same process it does for any complaint about a physician, he said.

"There are a whole series of steps that have to be followed in our legislation in order to go from the point of a complaint to the point of a determination, whether a physician is guilty of unprofessional conduct and what those consequences will be if they are guilty."

Even though the college doesn't collect doctors' vaccination data, Salte said the majority of Saskatchewan physicians seem to be immunized against COVID-19.

"There are none that I am personally aware of who have said that they are not vaccinated," he said.

"The people that have volunteered [to share their immunization status] have all said that they are vaccinated."

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