COVID-19 updates

As the COVID-19 pandemic quickly evolves, the College will continue to send emails out to registrants with important announcements from the provincial health officer and share updates on related regulatory changes.

All up-to-date information and communications is consolidated here.

Last update: September 15, 2021

Information for registrants

Regulatory updates

With the BC vaccine card becoming operational and the recent mandate that all people who work in health authority facilities must be fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, registrants may be getting requests from patients for medical notes to be exempted from receiving the vaccine.

Guidance is available to assist registrants with determining the validity of such requests.

Read the full email to registrants.

Given broad vaccination coverage, COVID-19 should no longer pose a barrier to in-person practice. It is the joint position of the Provincial Health Officer, Ministry of Health, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC that health care that includes in-person assessments and preventative health measures (such as Pap tests and childhood immunizations) is an important determinant of health. With appropriate measures in place, we expect all practitioners to resume routine in-person visits based on clinical needs and patient preferences.

Read the full update.

The Ministry of Health has updated Mask Use in Health Care Facilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

This policy communique provides provincial guidance for mask use by health-care workers, non-clinical staff, patients, and visitors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in health-care facilities. 

The update reflects recent communication from the Ministry of Health regarding the availability of respirators for health care workers where a point of care risk assessment determines there is elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission through patient/resident interaction. In addition, the updated policy communique incorporates policy guidance from BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner regarding mask wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the updated policy here.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and the First Nations Health Authority stand united and firmly against the spread of misinformation about COVID-19, which is currently circulating on social media and other channels. In recent months, we have become aware of and concerned about reports that some BC physicians are spreading information that contradicts public health orders and guidance. This has included misinformation that promotes anti-vaccine, anti-mask wearing, anti-physical distancing and anti-lockdown stances, as well as COVID-19 treatments that are not supported by widely accepted scientific evidence.

Read the full statement.

Dr. Bonnie Henry has updated the order Regulated and Unregulated Health Professionals SARS-CoV-2 Immunization to allow physicians who have been retired from practice for more than three years and eligible international medical graduates to provide COVID-19 immunizations under supervision of a health authority during the declared pandemic. 

These individuals will be employed by a regional health authority and will not be registered and licensed with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC.

Non-College registrants

Retired for more than three years

Physicians who have been retired for more than three years can apply to a regional health authority to provide vaccines under supervision. As the employer, the health authority will assume all liability for these individuals and is responsible for assessing competence and ensuring that relevant training has been completed.

International medical graduates

International medical graduates who have met the following eligibility requirements can apply to a regional health authority to provide vaccines under supervision:

  1. Proof of residence in British Columbia
  2. Obtained a medical degree from outside of Canada recognized and listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools (which includes a sponsor note indicating that it is an acceptable medical school in Canada)
  3. Verification of their medical degree by
  4. Successful completion of the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Exam (MCCQE) part 1

As the employer, the health authority will assume all liability for these individuals and is responsible for verifying that the eligibility requirements have been met.

Non-College registrants interested in applying should contact the health authority in which they wish to work using the contact information below.

College registrants

Retired for three years or less

Physicians who retired or resigned as College registrants three years ago or less are considered “current in practice” according to the Bylaws made under the Health Professions Act and are therefore eligible to reinstate their licence in the emergency class of registration for the sole purpose of providing COVID-19 vaccines.

Retired registrants interested in applying should contact the health authority in which they wish to work using the contact information below.

Dr. Bonnie Henry issued orders on November 7, 2020 specific to Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions. Specifically, Dr. Henry ordered that there are to be no social gatherings of any size with anyone other than members of an immediate household. 

For example:

  • Do not invite friends or extended family to your household
  • Do not gather outdoors
  • Do not gather at restaurants

The order can be found here.

The delivery of care in patient homes or in private practice does not constitute a “social gathering.” Registrants who provide care to patients in these settings are expected to continue as they did prior to the issuance of this new order. 

The Medical Assistance in Dying practice standard has undergone a minor amendment to clarify that practitioners can conduct a capacity assessment either in-person or by video-enabled telemedicine. Telemedicine assessments must meet the requirements set out in federal legislation as well as the standards and expectations that apply to in-person assessments.

The premier and the minister of health released their decision to ease restrictions on surgical services and to allow the resumption of non-urgent surgeries beginning on May 18, 2020.

In addition to the applicable standards from the Non-Hospital Medical and Surgical Facilities Accreditation Program, non-hospital facilities are expected to meet all applicable requirements from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, the Ministry of Health, and the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), including those in the document Guidelines for COVID-19: Infection Prevention and Control for Private Surgical Facilities.

The College has published frequently asked questions for non-hospital facility medical directors and staff on resuming services. Read them here.

The College has developed guidance for registrants on providing in-person community care during COVID-19, with expertise and direction provided by the provincial health officer (PHO), the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and WorkSafeBC. It is intended for all registrants in community practice and is applicable for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read it here

The Medical Assistance in Dying practice standard underwent a minor revision to clarify that for MAiD assessments, telemedicine is assumed to include video of sufficient quality to ensure expected safeguards are in place. A telephone interview is not sufficient in most circumstances.

Read the update from the registrar to physicians here.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, registrants are being asked to make amendments to existing prescribing practices to ensure patients receive their medication while also following the requirements to distance themselves physically, self-isolate or quarantine.

Details regarding the amendments are available here.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC has posted a proposed temporary amendment to its Bylaws in response to the postponement of the spring qualifying examinations offered by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, and the Medical Council of Canada. 

For more information, please visit the Bylaw Amendments page.

The March/April issue of the College Connector contains important information for physicians related to COVID-19.

Read it here.

Effectively immediately and for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency in British Columbia, the following changes have been made to the Medical Assistance in Dying practice standard:

  • The limit allowing only one practitioner to conduct a telemedicine assessment is temporarily rescinded. Both practitioners can conduct the assessment by telemedicine. Telemedicine assessments must meet the requirements set out in federal legislation as well as the standards and expectations that apply to in-person assessments.
  • The requirement for a regulated health professional to act as a witness is temporarily rescinded. No witness is required for a telemedicine assessment if they are not reasonably available.
  • The requirement of the physician not to delegate or assign the return of MAiD substances is temporarily rescinded. When there is no other reasonable option, the physician may ask another physician, nurse practitioner, licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, registered psychiatric nurse, or pharmacist to return the substances to the pharmacy. The physician must document the name of the person assigned to return the substances in the patient record.

Read the warning on the use of unproven treatments and medications for COVID-19 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, the College of Pharmacists of BC, and the BC College of Nursing Professionals here.

Read the update from the registrar to physicians here.

  • The DAP and NHMSFAP are extending the cancellation of assessments through June 30, 2020. Facilities will be notified if there are further cancellations of accreditation site visits beyond the June 30, 2020 date.
  • The DAP Committee and NHMSFAP Committee are expediting procedures as follows:
    • Automatic six-month extensions for accreditation certificate expiry dates will be given for any facility where the accreditation site visit has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • All variance requests associated with non-high-risk standards will be adjudicated directly by the deputy registrar to ensure the quickest possible turnaround time for decisions.
  • At this time, PPEP and POMDRA assessments and post-assessment activities are postponed indefinitely.
  • Registrants will be contacted by College staff once the Provincial Health Office and College has deemed it appropriate to proceed.
  • Due to a spike in interest in making greater use of telephone and video communication as substitutes for in-person visits Doctors of BC recently announced billing changes.
  • In light of recent events and in response to an increasing number of inquiries, the College practice standard Telemedicine was recently reviewed and revised to clarify expectations of physicians who prescribe opioid and psychotropic medications, and ensure there are no regulatory barriers to the clinically appropriate use of distance technologies for patient care.
  • At this time, the DAP and NHMSFAP are suspending assessments through April 9, 2020. Facilities affected by this change will be contacted directly.
  • Should there be any further changes to assessment schedules, facilities will be informed and this page will be updated.