Masking in community clinics

July 16, 2021

Dr. Paul Boucher, AMA President

Dear Members:

I have heard from a number of members who are concerned with potential implications for their clinics arising from the lifting of mandatory continuous masking. The public health order was maintained for Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health and long-term care facilities, but not for other clinical settings. For the last year and half, physicians, their staff and other health care professionals have been working tirelessly to care for Albertans while doing everything they can to keep themselves and their patients safe. The decreasing case numbers in the community and increasing percentage of Albertans with full immunization has reduced the risk of exposure while providing clinical care, but has not eliminated it. Although the public health order remains in place for many larger health care facilities, the reality is that there is still significant risk in community clinic settings.

The public health order states that private businesses may set their own policies and can require individuals to wear masks while attending their business. As clinicians, you best understand the risks that are present in your practice’s patient population and should feel empowered to require all those entering your clinics in the community to wear masks. Community practices are private businesses and no two are exactly alike. I believe that physicians must balance the duty to provide care to those who need it, with the duty to protect our other patients, staff and ourselves. The CPSA issued guidance to the profession that included strategies to help manage situations where patients refuse to mask. The guidance also clearly states that failing those strategies, we cannot outright refuse care. I hope these situations will be the rare exception and trust that your sound clinical judgement will prevail under these circumstances, in particular if the situation in question is not appropriate for a virtual visit.

The future remains uncertain. What will happen with COVID case numbers in the coming months will be dictated by the impact of variants and the number of fully vaccinated Albertans. I truly hope that we can move through this phase of the pandemic and deal with the care deficit that has been building.

Thank you for all you do and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me in the usual ways.

  • Communicate with me privately and directly by email if you would like a reply: president@albertadoctors.org
  • Comment publicly on this President’s Letter below (please be aware that comments are public, i.e., not members-only, even if you are logged in as a member).

Sincerely,

Paul E. Boucher, MD, FRCPC
President, Alberta Medical Association

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