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Bulletin for ABVMA Members – COVID-19

March 18, 2020

ABVMA

March 18, 2020

BULLETIN FOR MEMBERS – COVID-19

The delivery of veterinary medical services is essential to protect animal health and welfare. The public expects that veterinary professionals are available to provide necessary care. Protection of the public, the health and welfare of animals, the food supply, and the safety of our members and practice staff is of utmost importance to the association.

The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures recommended by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH). The association has been receiving communications from members and practices.

The association plans regular communications with members as necessary, and is pleased to provide this bulletin with additional information for members.

IN THIS BULLETIN 

ABVMA OFFICE OPERATIONS

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED MEASURES FOR VETERINARY PRACTICES

ABVMA COMMUNICATION WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF ALBERTA

HOMEWOOD HEALTH SERVICES - NOTICE FOR MEMBERS

VETERINARY CARE FOR YOUR ANIMALS – PUBLIC NOTICE, MARCH 17, 2020

SCIENTIFIC ASSESSMENT OF THE ZOONOTIC POTENTIAL OF COVID-19

CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 (COVID-19): OWNER CONTACT GUIDELINES

PROVINCIAL RESPONSE UPDATE

USEFUL LINKS AND RESOURCES


ABVMA OFFICE OPERATIONS

ABVMA staff will continue to attend work at the office for the time being. Hours of operation are 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday, closed between 12-1 p.m.

Additional measures are being implemented during office hours to ensure the health and safety of our staff, and to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

The office is currently closed to all outside visitors. Please do not attend in-person at the ABVMA office until further notice.

Please call the office at 780-489-5007 or email staff for assistance.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.


ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED MEASURES FOR VETERINARY PRACTICES

Members should refer to the original recommended measures provided in the March 16, 2020, Notice to Members (available on your member portal).

Implementing some or all of these measures demonstrates the profession’s commitment to maintaining access to critical and emergency care, while complying with recommendations from Alberta Health.

In addition to the March 16 recommendations, practices should consider implementing some or all of the following measures:

Enhanced Employee and Public Safety

  • Restrict client access to practice: conducting a low/no contact appointment can be facilitated by asking the owner to remain in the vehicle. Practice staff can collect the patient from the vehicle for examination. Veterinarians and staff can then communicate with client by electronic means including text, face time, skype, etc. Medications and food may also be delivered to the vehicle in the same method.
  • Do not accept walk in traffic: announce via signage, website, social media that the practice is not accepting walk-in traffic in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Triage clients to discourage COVID+ clients from attending the practice: if you are allowing clients to attend in-person, use Owner Contact Guidelines (link TBD) to determine if the client should safely be permitted to enter the practice.
  • Limit payment methods: Practices should limit payment to an online payment system, or by point of service terminal (POS), with increased sanitation practices. Practices should avoid accepting cash.
  • Institute enhanced triage system for patients: consider limiting treatment to emergent/critical cases only. Postpone/reschedule routine visits, including wellness exams, vaccinations, elective surgeries, etc. Consider employing telemedicine in your triage process.
  • Consider having employees work in teams: separating your employees by shift and into teams reduces close contact between larger groups of employees. Sanitize the practice between shifts.
  • Review infection prevention and control protocol for the practice: http://oahn.ca/resources/ipc-best-practices/https://www.aaha.org/aaha-guidelines/infection-control-configuration/aaha-infection-control-prevention-and-biosecurity-guidelines/
  • Increase sanitation practices: ensure commonly touched surfaces (door knobs, counters, tables, seating areas, keyboards, telephones and point of service terminals) are cleaned after each client visit.
  • Reduce the need for signatures: a veterinarian or veterinary technologist may document in the medical record that verbal informed client consent has been received to reduce the requirement for client signatures.
  • Encourage sick staff to stay home: create a culture where staff respect that they should stay home if sick, and self-isolate if necessary.
  • HR policies: practices should implement and discuss HR policies, including sick time, contingency plans for reduced childcare and other factors with employees.
  • Exercise social distancing: maintain 1-2 metres between yourself and others. Limit face-to-face interactions to work-related tasks.

Adaptations to consider due to Alberta declared Public Health Emergency (see further down the document)

While the Public Health Emergency does not directly apply to veterinary practices, the profession has a social responsibility to align with human health initiatives.

  • Cancel elective procedures: postponing elective procedures limits traffic into practice, reduces unnecessary face-to-face exposure with clients and conserves medical supplies that may be required for emergency/critical care.
  • Consider reduced or modified business hours: reduced hours reduces risks to employees and reserves practice resources to continue to provide urgent care.
  • Prescribing and dispensing: veterinarians may use their professional discretion to issue a short-term prescription for cases in which a chronic condition has been previously diagnosed, and the animal is stable, where an examination and/or diagnostic test(s) may normally be required.
  • Animal welfare concerns: triage of patients, and postponing treatment should consider whether or not the animal is in distress.
  • Scheduling appointments: increasing time for appointments and/or scheduling time between appointments prevents the overlap of clients in the waiting room.
  • Limit client purchases: set limits (ie. two-month supply of food and medication) in case of shortages.
  • Consider use of telemedicine: communication with clients by electronic means (ie. text, face time, skype, etc.) where appropriate will reduce traffic to practices.

Business Continuity/Contingency Planning

  • Measures if an employee tests positive for COVID-19: practices should consider separating employees into teams to ensure there are other staff who have not been exposed. The practice may also consider engaging locums or staff from other practices to fill HR gaps.
  • Medical Records: veterinary practices that close are required to provide for continuity of care for their patients. Practices should have a method for clients to access their medical records.
  • Identify and communicate plan for staff compensation/access to EI: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html
  • Contact lists: ensure you have staff contact lists and supplier lists available off-site to ensure key contact people can be reached.
  • Have public messaging ready to deploy: updated telephone message, website and social media information should be prepared in advance.
  • Mail/deliveries: implement method for cancelling mail and other deliveries to the VPE if necessary.
  • Consider practice sustainability and accessing government supports for small businesses: https://www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/campaign-campagne/ressources-entreprises-COVID-19-business-resources.aspx?lang=eng


OWNER CONTACT GUIDELINES – DR. SCOTT WEESE (FLOWCHART)

The COVID-19 Owner Contact Guidelines is a flowchart resource to assist veterinary practices in screening the risk of clients based on several indicators including recent international travel, known regional community transmission or known contact with infected human.

*Document prepared by: J. Scott Weese, DVM, DACVIM, University of Guelph, published March 17, 2020
 

ABVMA COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF ALBERTA

The ABVMA sent a letter to Premier Jason Kenney, dated March 17, 2020, regarding veterinary services during the COVID-19 outbreak. In the letter, the association urges the Ministry of Health to recognize that the delivery of veterinary medical services are essential to the public of Alberta.

View the letter (login required).
 

HOMEWOOD HEALTH - SERVICES FOR MEMBERS

1-800-663-1142 | TTY: 1-888-384-1152 | International (call collect): 604-689-1717 | homewoodhealth.com

All registered ABVMA members (veterinarians and technologists) are reminded that they (and their families) have access to Homewood Health. Homewood Health provides counselling and other member assistance programs and resources.

Members of the veterinary team should remain cognizant of the emotional toll COVID-19 can take on you personally. Services through Homewood Health are still available, however, Homewood Health will be implementing telephonic counselling sessions only.

This Homewood Health FAQ document provides information on Coronavirus as well as how to access services during the outbreak.
 

VETERINARY CARE FOR YOUR ANIMALS – COVID-19 INFORMATION FOR THE PUBLIC

A notice for the public is now available on the ABVMA website, Alberta Animal Health Source and on social media platforms.
 

SCIENTIFIC ASSESSMENT OF THE ZOONOTIC POTENTIAL OF COVID-19 

The Scientific Assessment of the Zoonotic Potential of COVID-19* is a document that summarizes what is currently known about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) from a zoonotic perspective and provides additional background on coronaviruses to support animal-related assessment of risk.

*Document prepared by: Policy Integration and Zoonoses Division, Centre for Food-borne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Public Health Agency of Canada.
 

ALBERTA’S PROVINCIAL RESPONSE UPDATE

Alberta declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Act on March 17, 2020. New public health measures are now recommended to limit the time Albertans spend in large crowds and space. Effective March 17, 2020, all events with over 50 people in attendance are to be cancelled, no attendance at recreation centres, casinos, bingo halls, bars, theatres and other facilities. Sit down restaurants can remain open at a lower capacity.

Alberta’s aggressive measures are being implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta.

For current information on the provincial response, visit: https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx
 

USEFUL LINKS AND RESOURCES

The Government of Canada's coronavirus information line (1-833-784-4397) is available from 7 a.m. to midnight (EST) seven days a week.

Alberta Health Services

https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page16944.aspx

CVMA

https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/news-events/news/covid-prevention-tips

Worms and Germs Blog, Dr. Scott Weese, human to animal transmission

https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/2020/03/articles/animals/dogs/covid-19-in-a-dog-update-2/

Public Health Agency of Canada

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/frequently-asked-questions.html#a4

World Health Organization

https://www.who.int/news-room/articles-detail/updated-who-recommendations-for-international-traffic-in-relation-to-covid-19-outbreak

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)

https://www.oie.int/en/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/


Sincerely,

Darrell Dalton, DVM
Registrar, Alberta Veterinary Medical Association